What is a Christian view of sports / athletics?

Although the Bible does not tell us which team to cheer for or teach us the rules of basketball, it is full of sports-related metaphors. These metaphors use sports as an example for how to live out our Christian walk while we are here on earth. As followers of Christ we are separate from the world because our sins have been forgiven, but we still must live in the world and among non-Christians. While we are on this earth we are to be witnesses to non-Christians of the freedom and joy that comes from the love and forgiveness we experience through a relationship with God (1 Peter 3:15). We witness to others through the way we live our daily lives. First Corinthians 10:31 states, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Many of the references to sports in the Bible are found in the New Testament letters the apostle Paul wrote to Christians living within the Roman Empire. Sports were an important part of Roman culture so the people would have been able to relate to the examples used in the Bible. First Corinthians 9:25–27 says, "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." Paul compares the Christian walk to competing in a sport in that it requires self-control and discipline. Other examples encourage believers to play by the rules through obedience (2 Timothy 2:5), finish strong through endurance and perseverance (2 Timothy 4:7), and exercise themselves spiritually (1 Timothy 4:8). All of these attributes not only help us excel in our athletic career, but in our spiritual walk as well.

Today many professional athletes do not live up to the model of an athlete presented in the Bible. Every day there is a new story about athletes using drugs or steroids, cussing, fighting with the opposing team, physically abusing women, and the list goes on. One of the greatest dangers for Christian athletes is allowing sports to become an idol (1 John 5:21). Often times athletes become so passionate about their sport that it becomes their identity. They make it a priority over everything else, including God. In addition, sports fans become obsessed to the point of neglecting their families and harboring hatred against fans of other teams. Christian athletes must be different if they want to be witnesses for God. They can pray with teammates, give thanks to God when they win, donate to charities, and mentor younger athletes.

Sports are a great physical example of the discipline and passion we should exhibit in our spiritual walk. We must be careful, however, not to let sports become an idol in our lives, but rather to participate in them in such a way that they bring glory to God.

Related Truth:

How does the Christian life compare to the Olympics?

In what way is self-control a fruit of the Holy Spirit?

What does it mean for Christians to be in the world but not of the world?

Should a Christian exercise? What does the Bible say about health?

How can I tell if the desires of my heart are from God?

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