“All I know most surely about morality and obligation I owe to football”,
Competition as relationship"It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" Genesis 2:18
One of the arguments against competition is that it hurts relationships. However, I was fascinated to find an article entitled, Competition and friendship, by a philosopher of sport, Drew Hyland, in which he argues, not writing from a specifically Christian perspective, that competitive sport has the potential to lead either to conflict and alienation or to friendship. He notes that we are often "at our most competitive while playing against a close friend" and that "this greater intensity enhances rather than diminishes the positive strength of the relationship."
The context in Genesis 2 is the marriage of a man to a woman, the most fundamental of loving relationships. However, the principle of our needing helpful and healthy relationships extends to all other human scenarios, from those amongst families and friends and extending to those on the sports field. We are to demonstrate and proclaim God's image and presence in all we do and, for us as sports people that must include our sport.
As Christian players recognize that their ability to play sport is a gift from God, they will more and more want to use those talents to please him - simply because of who he is, the creator and Lord of the universe and the God who loves them so much. To offer one's talents and abilities in this context is an act of worship. Christians should never be ashamed of being competitive and wanting to do their best provided that their motivation is to please and honour God rather than for their own ego and provided their attitude to the opponent is loving.
Hyland argues that competition helps each participant achieve a level of excellence that could not have been achieved without the competition. He argues for friendship as a relationship where friends, rather than in his words "not hassling each other" are always pushing each other to be the best they can be. Thus he concludes that "the highest version of competition is as friendship".
As Christians we can take this to an even higher level as we seek to love our opponent as our self and push them to the highest level they are capable of.