Why I like sports and how competition might fit into the Kingdom of God

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. 

Extremes Aside

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.


About chris breuninger

I love life, my family, and Jesus. I enjoy live music, rigorous exercise, thoughtful movies, and strong coffee. I study scripture, wine, and people. I get frustrated with narrow minds, Christian stereotypes, and gardening. My vocation is pastor, but I’m hesitant to admit that, and I’m happy when people are surprised by that.
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2 Responses to Why I like sports and how competition might fit into the Kingdom of God

  1. Great blog entry, Chris. Does this year’s sport hype seemed more inflated than before? It sure does to me. I’ve thought a lot about it in the sense of idolatry and greed (an assumed byproduct of extravagant pay) but never as something tht may emulate an aspect of Gods character. It’s great to hear the other side to my thoughts.

  2. Craig Fraser says:

    Competition is so ingrained in American culture and potentialy is derived from the Puritian Work ethic or the interpretation of “Man’s” dominion over the enviroment. A very primal foundation to the competition we all sprang from as did many cultures.
    Yet in others (indeginious) that are collective in nature, competition has no place because it is not posible to survive as individuals in their lands.
    I often wonder if we as a people are not hitting this cultural competative wall in the form of large unemployment, homelessness and starvation in our own backyards.
    In a collective, pain is felt and shared because hearts are open and so the viewer or viewers of suffering also truly suffers in seeing another’s pain and acts to correct the situation.
    I often worry that in the name of competition as a capitalistic society we are further distancing ourselves from the richness that can’t be acquired by winning but only through joining, joining togeather, as one.
    This was never more true than in hearing today’s message in church when tears and a quiet cry escaped my lips as I hurt deeply for the family that lost their son. Again I hurt when my 7 year old son walked to me after Sunday school and grabbed my hand looking Solomly into my eyes saying “Papa, their son died this week we must pray for him to make it to heaven and for his parents.” Yes Hudson I have been praying for that all week.
    Hudson was named after a child I helped raise who passed as at age 17 from cancer. I was 18 when I began helping raise him at age 4.
    We are one. the more we listen, see and realize this the faster we can all be home togeather.
    Grateful for my community and my life to only be Gods prayer for me realized in the world.

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