“When viewed through the lens of Scripture we will see that sport is more than a game, less than a god, and when transformed by the gospel can be received as a gift.”
So writes Jeremy Treat in his paper titled “More Than A Game: A Theology of Sport.” And that is a theologically informed, well-crafted sentence addressing a topic that has not been written about sufficiently from a biblical perspective.
We need a theology of sports in order to perceive sports as a gift from God and play sports for the glory of God. For the Christian, playing sports is not “just a game,” but more than a game, much more. Playing sports is a context for worship. Worship takes place whenever we play, whether idolatry in some form or genuine worship of the true and living God.
For the Christian, the field or court is a context and opportunity to honor God, express one’s love for God, reflect the character of God, and bring glory to God. But this won’t happen apart from viewing sports through the lens of Scripture and beholding the greatness of God in Scripture. Before one can play for the glory of God one must behold the glory of God. So, the Christian athlete must study theology and not just the playbook.
Furthermore, we will never play for the glory of God apart from the gospel. While sports is a gift from God, when you add the human heart, it’s all too easy for the gift to become an idol. Sports easily becomes a substitute for God, something we love in place of God and serve instead of God. Only when the sinful heart has been transformed by the grace of God through the gospel of Christ and him crucified in our place and as our substitute for our sins will playing sports be done for God’s glory and not our own.
The gospel changes everything. If our view of sports is influenced by the culture, than skills and stats become more important than sportsmanship. Winning becomes the matter of first importance. The gospel transforms how Christians look at everything, including sports. The gospel doesn’t improve your jump shot, increase your batting average, or lower your handicap but it does something much more significant. The gospel forgives your sins and transforms your heart, gives you a new passion and purpose, to play for the glory of another, one truly worthy of all glory.
Will you be watching sports this week? Playing sports? Talking about sports? Whether you watch sports, play sports, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.
This post is adapted from a sermon I preached this past Sunday at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville entitled, “Sanctifying the Ordinary: Sports,” based on 1 Corinthians 10:31.