Everywhere you turn at the moment there is sport. With the World Cup, Wimbledon, the Young Life Cricket match and now the Tour de France all coinciding it is a bumper summer for sports fans, even if so far it has not been the most successful for the British supporters (although I’m hoping Cavindesh might just be yellow when you read this, despite it being a big ask.) For those into sport it is a wonderful year, but for those who aren’t fans, it is hard to know where to turn.
To listen to ardent fans talk about their team or sport, you’d think sometimes that they’re talking about the most important thing in the world. Passions rise, debate flows and the love of their team is matched only by the hatred of the opposition. Incidents in the game, become frontpage headlines and are discussed outside all proportion (how many hours are devoted to talking about recent misdemeanours compared to matters of real importance around the world?) Bill Shankley, former Liverpool football club manager, once summed this up in his reply when someone once said, ‘To you football is a matter of life or death!’ Famed for his one liners, Shankley came back with the quick and now famous retort, ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.
Clearly sport is not more important than life or death issues despite what the relative column lines devoted to sport and other news issues might suggest and so why does it captivate us so much? Is it something that we as Christians should value and be involved in?
To answer those questions backwards, I’d say the answer to the second is yes. Yes because it is important to our culture, and as Paul says, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.’ (1 Cor. 9:22) To relate to those around us we have to be able to relate to what they’re interested in. For many that includes sport. I’d also say yes because sport is a great way of keeping fit, and looking after the bodies and minds that God has given us. Finally I’d say yes because it’s fun. There is more to life than just serious issues, Jesus came to give us life and life to the full (John 10:10). It is good and alright to enjoy ourselves!
But what is it about sport that means it engages people as much as it does? There are many parts to the answer I’m sure, but I suspect part of it is because sport reflects something of the creative and communal nature of the God whose image we’re made in. Our striving to give of our best and win reflects the way God always gives his best for us.
Church newsletter article 06.07.14