An Overview of Sports Theology

I delivered a speech at a youth camp many years ago. One of the leaders read a passage from Genesis 1-3 before starting the first group activity. In the Garden of Eden, where having fun was the primary goal, he noticed how much fun it was to play games. However, the serpent eventually made his way into the garden and made the residents of Eden promises of points. Peer pressure forced them to give in and keep score while playing, resulting in many sins like rivalry, the need to win, cheating, rage, and violence. They stopped engaging in easy games.

The leader informed the campers that this fable would be used to teach noncompetitive games the next week. There were only the joys of playing; there were no points, winners, or losers. The overwhelming repetition of the games, however, was a severe flaw. Every day, fewer and fewer students attended the game times until almost none remained for the final one.

Is this a true representation of sports theology? Naturally, I don’t believe that. I want to give a concise but comprehensive theology of sports. If it offends you, consider the subtitle “Why we should watch the Super Bowl.”

Three words can sum up history: creation, fall, and redemption. One must consider how a topic’s theology relates to or reflects creation, the fall, and redemption to understand it theologically. The terms incarnation and salvation have now been added to our examination of the sports-related dilemma (both of which are, of course, tied to creation, fall, and redemption).

God could have made everything to be useful and colorless. He instead produced a wide variety of hues, sizes, shapes, sensations, sounds, and tastes. What drove His behavior? He did it so that His beauty, in particular, would be reflected in the creation. It is a work of art in both performance and form. The thing is a piece of art.

There are two methods to categorize art: performing art, which includes things like theater, music, and dance, and visual art, which includes things like paintings, sculptures, and physical structures. The Lord incorporated both the performing and visual arts into the creation. Flowers, mountains, and trees are examples of visual art. Natural performance art can be seen in rivers, clouds, and oceans. The cosmos occasionally combines the two.

The Lord’s artistic creation is reflected in sports. Aesthetic and performance arts are combined (painted courts and fields, team colors, and logos) (the actual play). The purpose and design of creation are reflected in sports. A well-executed play, a well-thrown ball, a diving catch, and turning a double play are all beautiful things. People can be excited and uplifted by those things because they represent how the world was intended to be. They showcase art (or artistry, if you prefer).

Rather than creating everything randomly, the Lord put laws or restrictions across the entire creation. Sports follow a set of rules and are organized. There are repercussions for opposing the established order, such as disobeying gravity, just as for breaking the rules in sports. The nature of creation and ideas are reflected in sports. When done effectively, this reflection elevates the Lord and brings joy to the fan, much like in nature.

The curse of the fall, in which man rebelled through sin, touches everyone. It is present in every aspect of existence. This means that, as is our natural tendency, we should be alert for any signs of a decline in sports. Sins encompass both actions and thoughts.
Sports idolatry is the most lethal of these crimes, which occurs when someone holds the highest level of mental and emotional dedication. He has crossed the line into an unhealthy and unethical attachment when his entire outlook is determined by when games are played or whether his team wins or loses.

Other bad attitudes are those in which achieving success is the only thing that matters, people will do everything to succeed, one’s glory is the only thing that matters, and people exhibit arrogance or anger. These sins are all related to the fall. As seen by the use of performance-enhancing drugs, cheating in games, bat corking, brawls that leave the benches empty, and a variety of other behaviors, sports are a good example of how society is degrading.

We can tell we have embodied creatures because our bodies are more than bare vessels for our souls. In the hereafter, we will still have bodies, although glorified ones. The purpose of the Christian life is not to condemn the body but to subdue it so that the Lord may be praised.

One of the things that aid us in doing that is sports. Discipline is necessary for sports, and the discipline we employ to prepare our bodies for sports can also be good for our spiritual lives. Sports demand physical toughness, determination, and the ability to put off pleasure. Sports can also teach collaboration and teach people how to punch hard, respect for authority, and encourage people who aren’t as naturally talented as others. They also impart patience. Even playing on the bench has benefits.

By utilizing our bodies to glorify God, we can worship God and celebrate the truth and reality of God’s incarnation through sports.

Salvation’s past has been characterized as a drama. Must-have drama information, motion, and time at the very least, for it to be effective. Before the beginning of time, the Lord already had a strategy and wisdom for the drama of salvation. This strategy was established at the moment of genesis, long before any recorded historical figures or occasions. Additionally, everything happened according to God’s timing; Christ was on time in Galatians. That drama is still going on today. C.S. Lewis referred to it as the “real myth.”

Actors and actresses must be knowledgeable (know their lines), be physically present in a scene, and know when to act and speak their lines to succeed in modern theatre (timing). The great theater also has the feel of a myth that is real.

Sports are the physical manifestation of this dramatic sense of data, motion, and time. The techniques and tactics used in sports are blatant examples of expertise. To be effective, these methods demand mobility and require perfect synchronization from all parties. Sports can display amazing activity and take on legendary characteristics. The universal attraction of sports can be partly ascribed to the fact that it permeates everyone’s existence. Some contend that individuals who are interested in and dedicate time to sports discover a deeper meaning and purpose in life.

Christ’s act of redemption, in which he gave his body and blood in return for us, served as the foundation for our salvation.

One of the few times in life where you may give your body up for the good of others is in sports. Many sports plays, like a block, a diving grab, or a challenging gymnastics routine, call for sacrificing one’s body for the team’s sake. In this, the gospel is being practiced.

Redemption is the term used to describe the joy of recovery. When redemption is finally fully accomplished, it transforms into glorification, accompanied by utter joy and boundless happiness. The pleasures and delights of this life are blessings that are gifts of grace. They give a taste of it, even though they can never completely fulfill it.

Sports are one of those gifts that give sports fans delight and enjoyment (also, at times, disappointment, so we learn how to deal with that in a healthy and godly way). They should be appreciated for the grace gift they are in and of themselves. A taste of that unmatched bliss makes us yearn for more, even though the pleasure is never total or lasting. While playing sports might be joyful in and of themselves, they also indicate a deeper, never-ending desire for delight. The sports fan who knows this bigger goal enjoys games from a religious perspective. Although it is a gift, the intention is not momentary joy. It is almost idolatry when regarded as a goal in and of itself. We must develop the habit of being glad since it is a part of God’s design.

We are to take sports captive, just as we submit all else to Christ. Sports may be a transformative activity when we see it as one of God’s ways of showing us compassion and realizing that they are a way to thirst for the higher delight that only Christ can give.

Maybe a lot more needs to be said. I haven’t even covered how Paul uses sports metaphors to connect spiritual life to competition. I avoided discussing the idea of using athletics as a means of evangelization. I refrained from discussing how bravery and athletic prowess should coexist with kindness and love in sports. The connection between athletics and our internal conflict has not been mentioned. However, I hope I’ve provided you with enough information to cause you to pause and reflect on how you may have previously viewed sports.

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