Friday, May 23, 2014

Sports? Yes, Sports

There was an on-line discussion a couple of weeks back about sports and the impact, positive and negative, that it has on people. I have been involved in sports, as an athlete or coach for fifty-two of my fifty-eight years. Currently, we are part of a church that has just a few folks interested in sports. It can make for some interesting conversations.

Our community's mission is to show the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus to our city so that it flourishes. One of the ways we do this is through the arts. We have a number of artists and musicians, and there are many different ways in which they seek to carry out this mission. Jan and I love being in this spiritual environment and we are learning a great deal. I've even had a few artistic stirrings my self. As I see my artist friends do what they do as a way of bringing the kingdom of God to bear, I am thinking more and more how that can be done through sports.

Sports is one of those things that can do a great deal of good, or a great deal of harm. I am well aware of the problems in the sports world. I have known my share of athletes who were sure they were going to make it in the pros, and didn't bother to study. I have known coaches who have been fired from their jobs, not because they didn't produce capable student-athletes who were good citizens, but because they didn't get into post season tournaments every season. I have seen the athletes, and coaches, who believe that the rules somehow don't apply to them as long as they win.

Unlike the arts, sports has not been neglected or shunned by the wider Christian church. In fact, it has been embraced by the church as something good. That is not a bad thing in and of itself. The problem comes when we begin to make idols out of athletes, teams, etc. Don't tell me that we don't follow the lead of the culture when it comes to putting athletes up on pedestals. We just have a different set of criteria for who we put up there. Unfortunately, when our idols fall off the pedestal, the fallout is usually worse.

Yes, there are problems in the sports world. At times it can seem like the bread and circuses of the Roman Empire. On the other hand, sports can be a beautiful thing. I would even go so far as to say that one can find art in sports. The arc of a shot from behind the three point line, a soccer team moving the ball up the pitch with short precise passes, the graceful lines of a high jumper clearing the bar, the power of a sprinter exploding out of the starting blocks. All of these things have a beauty to them. Sports can also teach lessons that are life-long. The ability to work with others to accomplish a common goal is a useful thing. The discipline of practicing and constantly trying to improve skills comes in handy in many situations. Persistence learned in the heat of competition goes a long way toward helping one to not give up when things get tough.

As a follower of Jesus, I try to see the good in all of the abilities that God gives to those made in his image. Whether it's a painter, an illustrator, a writer, a musician, or an athlete, all of the abilities we have are gifts to us from a creative God. As a Christian, I believe we have a calling to show the glory of our Father to a watching world through through those gifts. I believe that we can show the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christ through sports. Hopefully, I'll have opportunities to explore ways to do that in the near future.

What do you think?


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