"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play…it is war minus the shooting."
IntroDo you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Is there a Christian view of sport? A few years ago I wrote a book on that very subject “What the book says about sport”. I concluded that you could construct a Christian approach to sport based on eight statements. Over the coming eight weeks we will look at these principles:
• a gift from God
• part of God’s creation
• an opportunity for worship
• an opportunity to love one’s neighbour
• a testing ground
• an opportunity for witness
• important but not all-important
• not the source of our significance as people
There are of course several references to sport or the Games in Paul’s letters. The verse at the top is one example. But if you look at the context Paul is not writing about sport. He is writing about Christian commitment and drawing a parallel to sport.
Paul calls attention to the vigorous training of the athlete. The Christian is challenged to follow the example of the athlete and to strive for the crown which lasts. Here Paul uses metaphors from the Games, familiar to all his readers and, as countless preachers have done since, he contrasts the discipline accepted by athletes competing for an earthly prize with Christian failure to grasp the demands made on those who seek the highest of all callings.
Paul urges Christians to persevere in order to gain their reward in heaven, comparing this to the athlete training to gain the prize in the Games. The fact that he is addressing readers in Corinth, the home of the Isthmian Games would have meant that his readers were very familiar with the concepts he was using to make his point.
While similarities between sport and Christianity may help us as Christians and as athletes, they do not really help us gain an understanding of sport from a Christian perspective. More on that next week.