.PHILIPPIANS 2:3-5 DO NOTHING FROM SELFISH AMBITION OR CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY COUNT OTHERS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN YOURSELVES. LET EACH OF YOU LOOK NOT ONLY TO HIS OWN INTERESTS, BUT ALSO TO THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS. HAVE THIS MIND AMONG YOURSELVES, WHICH IS YOURS IN CHRIST JESUS.
First, let us understand that sports have its basis in a divinely given impulse to play and have fun and thus deserve a place in Christian living. People play sport primarily for the love of the game, the thrill of competition, and the sense of community and teamwork that comes from participation. When played and watched in faithfulness to God, sports play a great place as part of the created world and helps express our relationship to God and to one another. But, when passion for sports exceeds passion for Christ or the work of His church, or when sports becomes all consuming and commitments such as worship, service, relationships, friendships and family are diminished, sports poses a challenge to the Christian sacramental life. In light of who God is and who He calls us to be, we must examine and order our passions and priorities regarding sports.
Like other activities, sports can remind us that God is the source of all strength, grace, and beauty. Sports can help focus our attention on the reality of God through formative experiences on and off the playing field or court. Yet, when sports are approached selfishly and apart from God, spiritual growth is stunted, slowing one’s formation as a Christian. One key area of formation, in addition to spiritual formation, is character formation modeled after the character of Christ. To glorify God is to reflect Christ in everything we do, including sports. Thus, the quality of a Christian athletes play and participation should be unique, different than those not in Christ and those in the secular world. We should not see the antics (yelling at referees, running up scores in games, putting other athletes or team mates down, yelling at our athletes in a demeaning manner) of the secular world lived out on our courts, benches, or stands in our Christian schools sporting events. Spirit filled behaviors, as put forth in the following verse from Galatians, marks our behavior shown in our lives both on and off the court:
Gal. 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;”
With this in mind we can see that sports are an effective supplement to classroom education when integrated wisely into Christian schools. Participating in sports can lead students to truth and assist them in developing a mature faith learning to trust God and how to live content and joyful in every circumstance (Philippians 4:11). Yet, when we disproportionately emphasize sports or yield the purpose and practice of sports programs to those interested only in winning, they undermine the educational promise of sports.
I believe God calls us to a much different focus as outlined above, especially in elementary and junior high sports. God reminds us that sports are only games. While we have fun in sports and we can please Him through our actions on the court, winning or losing doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters is the faith and character formation of our student athletes and if we pay attention maybe even our own formation as Christian parents and coaches.