How do we reconcile sport and Christianity? That's the question we've been looking at for the last two team talks. Having set out the issue in the first team talk, last week we answered the objection that Christians shouldn't be involved in sport because of how fallen the world of sport is. In answering this we said that our moral rebellion against God isn't something that we can locate in particular environments, contexts, or activities like ‘sport' or ‘nightclubs', instead its found much closer to home - in our hearts. Consequently sport is as fallen as the people who play it. However Jesus' call isn't so much to withdraw from the world and fallen people, instead he came into the world to redeem the world and now by His Spirit and word he calls His people to do likewise.

As human beings we're not very good at living balanced lives - we tend to extremes. So if one extreme is to think that ‘sport is bad and Christians have no place playing sport' then there's a parallel error that we can swing to on the other side. Let me explain. We understand that it's OK for Christians to be involved in sport, and we see that Christ came into the world to redeem the world so we now see our involvement in sport exclusively in terms of ‘being in it to win it'. We want to win many people for Christ, and so we get stuck in to the world of sport to reach the unreached with the good news of Jesus.

Of course there's nothing wrong with this per se; everyone needs to hear the gospel - it literally is an issue of life and death, but what I'm suggesting is that if we're not careful this view can become ‘unbalanced' in two ways.

1. We can make sport a ‘tool' for evangelism. As we see people's great need to hear the gospel, then all things seem to pale into insignificance and so we start to think that the only thing that matters is evangelism. The world rapidly becomes polarized into that which helps us evangelize and that which distracts us from evangelism. But we need to be clear that whilst sport may be a very effective tool for evangelism it is much more than just a tool for evangelism. God made the world and everything in it and he declared it to be good and sport is part of this original creation. More than this God is redeeming this world and making the ‘new creation'. As such God is affirming the dignity of what he has created and showing that sport is not just a ‘means to an end' but can be an end in itself - a good gift given and redeemed by a loving heavenly Father. We need to be heard loud and clear saying that sport isn't just a tool - sport is good and I'm born to play!

2. We can make evangelism into something that we think earns favor with God. Often when people grasp the significance of the gospel then they kind of start to see Jesus like a coach - on the side of the track, thumb on stopwatch, shouting at you the athlete to try harder and witness to people. So we try as hard as we can to ‘run' hoping that if we do enough then Jesus will be pleased with us. Now this puts us under enormous pressure to perform and ultimately starts to undermine the work of the cross. Nothing we can do can make God love us any more and nothing we can do will make Him love us any less. Someone has said that Jesus is not so much like the coach on the sideline, but he is more like the air in our lungs - as secure in his love for us he empowers us and equips us by His Spirit in us to do his will.

I wonder - how balanced is your outlook as a player living for Christ? Do you tend towards one of these extremes? Do you hear others making this mistake? Or by God's grace are you on a more even keel, living for Christ, loving sport and trying by the power He gives you to tell others this amazing news?

[This article was written by Pete for Christians in Sport dated 17 September 2009]