God, the Christian and sport

When I first left school, I wanted to be a journalist. Some people pursue a career in the media because they want to change the world. An aspiring journalist might see the power of words, or the possibilities of capturing ‘history in the making’, and so set out on the journalistic path with noble aims.

Sadly, and embarrassingly, my aims weren’t quite so noble. I wanted good seats at the footy.

There was probably a bit more to it than that, but my basic motivation at the time was something like this: “I love sport.  Look at those guys on the radio and writing all those articles in the paper. They get paid to go and watch sport – wow! What a life! What could possibly beat that?!” It was the height of maturity I could muster at age 17, I’m afraid.

That was half my life ago, and by God’s grace pretty much everything has changed for me since then. But one thing has stayed absolutely the same: I love sport.

Sport and I go way back. I’ve been a fan of pretty much everything sport-related for literally as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are saving my pocket money to buy a South Sydney Rabbitohs yo-yo, the joy of heading off with my Dad to watch the cricket or the footy, and being allowed to stay up late (or get up early) to watch the big sporting events being beamed in from England.

Playing it, watching it, reading about it, chatting about it, whinging about it, rejoicing over it, compensating for my lack of actual ability by playing it on the computer – you name it, I’m there. I’m not even sure why I love sport so much. I have some theories, but it’s really not all that logical.

Get the point? Sport = good.

So whatever happened to my childish childhood ambition? To make a long story short, I did study communications and worked in various media roles for a few years. But right around the time I finished studying, I became a Christian. That helps with all kinds of things, including growing up. My ambitions changed, and God graciously took my life in a very different direction. I ended up going to theological college and becoming a Christian pastor.

But because my love of sport remains, it leaves me with big questions: What does God think about this whole topic, which consumes so much time and conversation for me, and for a large number of my friends, family and congregation members? Does he care about it at all? Is God a Wallabies or an All Blacks fan? (Well, maybe not that last one…)

(Before going any further, here’s my pitch for all the non-sports fans to keep reading (I know, this is one of those topics where you can lose people quickly). Reading this might help you to understand someone you know (and love?) just a little bit better. It might help you to understand either the sins that someone else is struggling with, and/or the issues they’re thinking through, and/or how they spend their leisure time, and/or the blessings that come to them through their love of sport. It might help you to engage with your culture a little better. Unconvinced? No worries, see  you later – thanks for making it this far! 🙂

For some people, sport and theology are like oil and water: they just really don’t mix. Or if they do, it goes about as far as being happy that a Christian athlete mentioned God in their speech after the SuperBowl. One comment I read on a blog recently said, “Watching and playing sports is fun. Athletes aren’t gods, shouldn’t be treated as gods, and are fallen human beings just like the rest of us. Is there really that much more to it?”

I’ve noticed recently that Christian books pour forth at a great rate on all kinds of subjects, especially on most aspects of ‘pop culture’. It’s pretty trendy to consider what the Bible says about the music we listen to and the shows we watch, or to review every new movie from a Christian point of view. But there is really very little material out there on the topic of sport – which is strange, considering how many people are united by having some level of interest in (or obsession with) sport.

So is there really that much more to it? I’m sure the answer is yes, there is a lot more to it. God is the God of everything, and he cares about everything that goes on in his world. As the name of this website says, we are to take ‘every thought captive’ to Christ – including the ones that go through our head while we watch or play our favourite sport.

But what does God think about sport? That’s what I’m going to try to work out.

So over the coming weeks (or months, depending on time constraints, etc), my hope is to post some thoughts on this blog that develop my theological thinking on the topic of sport. How does sport fit in with God’s big plans and purposes in the world right now, focusing on Jesus Christ and his gospel going out? What does the Bible teach us about sport (apart from 1 Tim 4:8)? What does God think about this thing that I spend so much time watching, talking about, enjoying, lamenting over?

No conclusions for now, just raising the idea and setting out some basic plans. I already have a bunch of ideas of the kinds of things that might be relevant, but if you’ve made it this far and have thoughts on what would be worth reading, I’d really love to hear your comments. What aspects of ‘God, the Christian and sport’ would it be most helpful for you to think about?

Now I’ve gotta run. Gotta check today’s NBA scores before bed…

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