|photo credit: jedIII via photopin cc|
In America, there are two dominate religions – Christianity and sports, football specifically. Sometimes, they can work together. Often times, they lie in contrast to one another.
Yesterday, we looked at how our culture’s insatiable appetite for football shows three truths about reality that our culture is often afraid to address. Today, we will look at how football (and sports in general) must sometimes be confronted by the church as a false god in our culture.
A couple years ago, when the NFL owners and players were locked in a legal battle over revenue sharing that threatened the start of the season, people were in an absolute panic.
In the end, nothing of significance was lost, but that did not stop many fans from wondering if they would survive. They might even have to kill time by going to church.
Seriously, sports are an obsession that many feel as if we could not do without. In this way, sports have become a cultural idol that stands opposed to Christianity, as any other false god stands opposed to Christ.
How can the church recognize the value that is present in sports, while reminding culture that sports should be the end-all, be-all of our existence?
1. Counteract the hype – Sports is all about hype. Every game is the biggest ever. Every player is the greatest of all time. ESPN and other sports broadcasters do not simply report the athletic news, they drive the story.
The more important you believe the sports to be, the more you want to watch the events (and their coverage surrounding the events).
It is unbelievable how less significant I see sports after having spent a few years without cable and ESPN. I still enjoy sports, but I’m not hanging on each and every game each week as something bigger than it really is.
Christianity is not about hype. You don’t have to hype God becoming man. You don’t have to hype the God-man dying on the cross for our sins. You don’t have to hype the God-spirit coming to dwell inside of the believer.
Christianity is not about hype. Christianity is about substance. The Church should teach members to look past hype for substance.
2. Affirm other aspects of life – While sports are hyped beyond belief, other areas are often ignored. I can say this as someone who was both a writer and an athlete growing up – our culture over-emphasizes the athlete to the exclusion of many other groups.
Christian athletes are celebrities. Christian artists (outside of Contemporary Christian musicians) are largely ignored.
The church is a body. It is about the many members coming together under the Head. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says that those members who seem to be less honorable we should give more honor.
I’m not sure the Church does that. We give honor to the same individuals the world gives honor to – celebrities, including athletes.
The Church should remind members that every individual, regardless of gifting, is valuable to the body.
3. Refocus our attention on higher things – America is overdrawn to sports. I say this as a sports fan. Even (maybe especially), Christians are obsessed with sports to the point that other pressing needs are ignored in their life.
Are we missing out on the lives of those around them and especially those who are far from them or different from them?
Christianity should remind us that we were made for something more than just temporal amusement. Sports are fun. Yesterday, I argued that they can point to the truth of Christianity.
But that can only be the case if they are kept in perspective. For most of our culture (and most of the church), sports have become an idol that needs to be placed back in proper perspective.
The Church must teach members that anything that takes away from our devotion to God is an idol, and sports is that for many people.
There can be a fine line between using a cultural trend, like the popularity of sports, as a means to present a Christian message and being used by that cultural trend, like the obsession with sports, as a means to undermine the Christian message.
Virtually everything in culture can be used positively and negatively. It takes work to understand how to use without being used. That’s the point.
None of us have arrived yet, so we must work together to achieve our Christ-centered goals by Christ-glorifying means. Sports can be used to present the Gospel. They can also be used as a counter-gospel.
We must know the difference between the two and help our community and culture see exactly how everything should fit together.