A number of years ago I remember chatting to a good friend about playing rugby, like me he was a Christian and he was perplexed that as a Christian I was still playing. "What's wrong with playing rugby?" I asked. "Well there's so much cheating and aggression in the game isn't there?" he responded. At the time I didn't know quite what to make of this. Perhaps he was right, perhaps I should give it up. But then God had created me with the gifts and a passion to play. So how should I reconcile this tension?

Many people face this dilemma, and at Christians in Sport we are asked this question in different forms hundreds of times each year. Equally the Christian community has ‘answered' this question in many different ways, sometimes it's a thought through response, and more often than not it's a response that has emerged ‘organically' over time. Over the next few weeks I want to work through some of the different responses to help us see some of their pitfalls, and ultimately to help us to understand better how the Bible would have us reconcile this apparent tension. Of course we may have to take a week's break every now and then if something significant happens in the world of sport but barring interruptions we'll try to work this question through in the next few issues of our ‘team talk'.

To start with though let's just notice a few things. First, this is a big issue. As a proportion of the population the number of people playing sport is big (globally and in the UK) and it's getting bigger. Current estimates are that about one third of all adults play sport formally or informally once a week and that number is increasing - particularly in the UK with increased investment around the ‘Golden Decade' of sport.

Secondly it's an important issue. Some people may think ‘look why bother trying to figure it out - aren't there more important issues to get caught up in?' Well, it's an important issue for many people worldwide who feel like they are ‘wired-up' to play sport and yet passionately want to faithfully serve Christ - they long for an answer. But also it's important because as C.S Lewis famously wrote; ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.'

Thirdly it's a relevant issue. Of course it's relevant for Christians who are passionate about sport, but I'd suggest it's also relevant for everyone else: If we can't understand how sport and Christianity are reconciled then what it really exposes is that we don't understand how our Christian faith engages with the world around us. It means that we have a very limited view of our relationship with God. Of course we may say ‘Christianity's not just for Sunday' but in practice we don't know what difference if any it makes to Monday through Saturday.

Sport isn't more important than other activities we can engage with in God's creation - it just so happens that I love it and have the privilege of working in this specific culture and writing about it. But at least it is no less important than other activities in God's creation, and as such this tension needs to be engaged with.

[Note: This article was written by Pete for Christians in Sport - 3 September 2009.]