It’s a great season for sports, if you’re a sports fan. The zillions of College Bowl games just ended and the NFL championships are heating up. When I have downtime, I’ll dial in, drawn by the competition and the drama. And in spite of having been a Seahawk fan since they hatched, I’m catching the 49er fever.
After the 49er win last Sunday (four lead changes in the final four minutes!), sports journalist Jeremy Hay wrote:
“In what was one of the most remarkable wins in the franchise’s 65-year history, the team thrust itself back into the ranks of the NFL elite on the strength and leadership of much-maligned quarterback Alex Smith, who abruptly established himself as a big-time, big-game winner.
In the process, the 49ers ended nine years of ignominy as NFL bottom feeders.”
Wow. Seriously? That’s not what I saw. But I’m new around here, and I’ve lived though decades of frustration as a Seahawk fan, so my view is skewed. But what I saw was team that was hungry to win, a team that has a lot of weapons, and a team that is well coached.
And it’s got me thinking about why I love competition, and how it might fit in the Kingdom of God. Here’s what I think…
Great connection happens in good competition
By good competition, I mean competition that pits individuals or teams against one another in a fair battle, with clear guidelines and refs who blow the whistle when lines are crossed. Good competitors fight hard and well, and after the game they shake hands with their opponent. I’m not in the camp that sees Jesus as a wimp, nor do I believe that Christians have to get along at all cost. I think great connection happens in good competition.
God loves a good fight
Think about it: God created humans knowing that His creation would stray. And then God goes to battle to win back his beloved from the kingdom of darkness. It seems like God loves a good fight, and if that’s true then so do we, because we’re designed in His image. But, as one author suggests, a gradual feminization of the church has emasculated this instinct in many churches today. (See “Why Men Hate Going to Church“).
What I’m not saying
I am not advocating dominance, imperialism, or unjust war. Nor am I justifying the outrageous commercialization of sports. And I’m not a proponent of a testosterone driven church that devalues the gifting of women. I’m just suggesting that competition may have more of a place in the kingdom of God than Christians have been socialized to assume.
When it comes to engaging in battle, Christians err on two extremes: we can be overly passive or we can be overly aggressive. The trick is to discern what is worth fighting for, like truth, justice, peace, and loved ones and neighbors. From there it’s all about fighting fairly, with the right weapons (see Ephesians 6:11-18).
This Sunday I’ll be glued to a TV, cheering for the 49ers. I won’t weigh the game down with an expectation that a win will redeem years of ignominy. That’s going too far. But I will unabashedly enjoy the game.