In my previous post, I raised the question, “How should the Church redeem sports and sports culture such that the weak are not discouraged, humiliated, and treated as sub-humans?” Answers posted on Facebook and on this blog were not entirely helpful. Some thought that I was calling for eliminating sports from schools (I was not). Others defended the reigning opinion that sports are good for everybody (I just didn’t get it for some reason). A minority of people had gone through similar experiences to that of my own, but had few thoughts on how to redeem sports and its culture. Having received few real answers to the question, I began to reflect on the question, and how the Church is to be light and salt to the world. I may not have the definitive answer, but I hope that this post offers some help for the weak and downtrodden. Sports may be redeemed by involvement and repentance.
A Call to Christian Involvement
Those who read my previous post may be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute! Why is a guy who hates sports asking Christians to get involved in sports?” Remember that I asked how sports and sports culture could be redeemed. It cannot be redeemed if the Church is not involved. Pee Wee leagues and school sports programs need coaches who do not see sports success as the ultimate goal in life, who do not encourage the Darwinistic ideal of survival of the fittest, and who do not encourage the strong to pick on the weak. Sports programs need coaches who see final salvation in Christ as the ultimate goal, who encourage the weak, and teach the strong to help the downtrodden. The weak could also benefit from Christian players who are willing to work alongside them. The weak need players and coaches who are willing to be disciplers, who are willing to share the curses of the crowds, and who are willing to lose games for the sake of those who are not athletically gifted.
A Call to Repentance
Sports culture, good and bad, is entrenched in the American church. It is good when properly used as an analogy of the Christian life. It is a detriment when sports becomes an idol. This idol manifests itself in various ways. It may appear in the form of a false notion of biblical manhood (if you are bad at sports, you are effeminate. If you do not like watching sports, you are a nancyboy). It also shows itself in improper exegesis of Scripture.
When pastors and teachers argue that 1 Cor 9:24-27 or 2 Tim 2:5 encourages Christians to play sports, they are twisting the texts to fit the sports culture. They must repent. After all, if Paul wanted his audience to box or run like Greek athletes, he would be encouraging Christians to get naked in public. In addition, no pastor or teacher that I have heard has used the 2 Tim passage to encourage his audience to take up farming, or to join the military. Paul was not encouraging farming, war, nudity, or involvment in sports. He was using an analogy. The Christian life is like a race, which we have yet to complete knowing that it has already been won in Jesus Christ, “the author and perfector of our faith.”1 Knowing that the race is already won is a great encouragement to those who struggle through this life of trial and tribulation. What encouragement comes from telling people that playing sports is a necessary part of the Christian life? Repent of faulty exegesis!
What if you were given the option of two heavens. In one heaven, sports did not exist, but Jesus was there. In the other, Jesus did not exist, but heaven had every sport ever created. Which heaven would you chose? The answer reveals whether or not you are a sports idolator. If so, repent!
In order to be salt and light in the sports culture, Christians need to be sports disciplers (coaches and players). In addition, teachers in the Church need to repent of sports idolatry. In these two small ways the Church may be able to redeem sports and its culture.