I love athletics. I love the volume of a packed gym at a basketball game. I love the sense of community, cheering for one’s team on a Friday night, feeling the crisp fall air, hearing the sound of beating drums. Nothing makes me feel more alive. Our family loves watching football games together on Saturday afternoons, especially my daughters (you’re welcome, future sons-in-law).
I love the way athletics brings out that which is noble and pure and good about humans: perseverance under pressure, love for one’s teammates, sacrificing one’s own comfort for something higher than oneself. Athletics are truly a gracious gift of God, given to us to enjoy as a community and as individuals, whether we’re competing or watching.
Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world. Sin doesn’t create, but it distorts. It takes the good things of God, and corrupts them. And, so, in some way we don’t fully understand, sports make us do crazy things. Saying things we would never say in our house, or that would get us smacked at the dinner table, somehow becomes socially acceptable in a packed gym. Yelling at people who are getting paid $4.25 per game to serve our kids or our athletes or our team for committing the unpardonable offense of not calling traveling is considered being a faithful fan. In this bullying-sensitive culture, where a 340-lb. NFL lineman receives empathy nationwide for being the target of rude comments by his teammates, it suddenly becomes couth to pick out a defining facial or personal characteristic of another team’s player and call his attention to it all night long.
And, in the inner recesses of our heart, the Spirit grieves.
It’s only because I am the chief offender that I understand the crazy of sports so well. So, I feel uniquely qualified to plead for a better way—a way that remembers that “life as worship” means that every word we speak and everything we do worships someone or something-either our God or one of the many gods of this world. A way that remembers that “educational sanctification” includes “sanctification”—the active pursuit of holiness, being made and re-made in the image of God every day, daily pressing into what Christ calls me to be until my words and my life look like this thing that my Lord promises me I’ve already become through His blood.
Finally, I’m pleading for a way embracing the fact that “redemptive community” means I can’t outsource accountability–for my children, for my brother or sister sitting next to me, for my own life. True community is a blessing beyond measure, but it’s bought with a price—that we’re all empowered (called? responsible?) to hold each other accountable to this narrow way to which we’ve been called, to gently but boldly and firmly remind myself and my friend that this school, this faith, this Jesus that I profess is more precious to me than this game or that questionable call, or anything else for that matter.
I know this isn’t fun to read; no picnic to write, either. I may make somebody mad. But, I love y’all and this community too much to really care much about that. We have a great thing going here, something sacred and blessed, for which we can all be grateful. But, we live in a world with enemies who want to tear it down. We have to prayerfully and boldly and lovingly contend for it every single day. Let’s worship well together, in and on His courts, with thanksgiving.