I wrote last week that given the present significance of sport in our culture this is a big issue, an important issue, and it's a relevant issue. Some claim that Christians shouldn't play sport because it's a morally compromised culture and the recent headlines make a pretty compelling case; blood capsules in rugby to make illegal substitutions, Jamaican sprinter's taking banned substances, diving in football to win penalties, and we could all list many more. How can Christians be involved in such an environment? Shouldn't they be distinctive to the world rather than complicit in the world's godless existence? Won't Christians themselves become morally compromised in this culture?

In answering this question it's important to say upfront that we're considering the issue ‘in general' but I'm not legislating for any individual and their own specific decision. Each person needs to inform his or her conscience and make their own decision before God. However, it is important to see that there's an error in thinking that ‘Christians shouldn't play sport because sport is bad' and primarily the error lies in where we locate the problem of sin.

To believe that Christians should stay separate to the world of sport is most often linked to believing that sin is a matter of environment. It's to divide the world up into immoral places like, sports pitches, bars and nightclubs and moral environments like churches, and the family home. However this is to grossly underestimate how deep rooted our problem before God really is. The problem with the world isn't that there are certain dark corners that need God's divine light, the problem is as Romans 1:21 puts it we have all rejected God and so our ‘foolish hearts are darkened'. That is why Jesus teaches that our moral rebellion against God is located in the very core of our being - our hearts; ‘For from within out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder , adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.' (Mark 7:21-22).

Sport may sometimes look worse than other areas of life, but a careful analysis reveals that it's no worse than what takes place behind the closed front door of our homes. Lying, cheating, hurt, anger, sexual perversion and unfaithfulness - in thought or deed, (to mention but a few), aren't caused by ‘wrong place, wrong time' but occur at all times and all places. If we really were to expect Christians to retreat from every area of life where we saw a failure to live up to God's standards then we'd face the impossible task of having to run away from ourselves.

This is not to say that there aren't some environments where following God's way isn't particularly difficult and so perhaps some contexts that it's wise for Christians to avoid. But we shouldn't forget that Christ was regularly found amongst ‘sinners' in the very context that the so called religious elite would never be seen in and so we must never draw lines between the apparent ‘clean' and ‘unclean'. Sport may be fallen but this is only because fallen people play it - not because there's anything inherently wrong with it.

Christ's call has often been said to be that those who follow him should be ‘in the world but not of the world'. This is tough, and to be honest it's a lot neater and easier to draw lines in the sand than it is to get stuck into the world in all its mess and falleness. But then again we could do a lot worse than ask ‘what did Jesus do'? Didn't he live right in the middle of this fallen world? Didn't he come to the world to tell the world about how it might be reconciled to him - the creator and redeemer? And isn't this now what he calls those who follow him to do as we remember that with this call there's also a promise... ‘and surely I'll be with you until the end of this age'.

[Note: This article was written by Pete for Christians in Sport dated 10 Sept 2009.]