By Dr. Thamsing Lamkang
Sport is an institution as influential as sports cannot escape examination and subsequent judgment as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’. In some parts of the world sport is thought to be inherently evil and participation in sports is considered sinful, an ideology that stems from Ancient Greek thoughts.
Sports will be good and healthy when you see good outcome through the players (such as good health, fitness and discipline, mould friendship and build relationship etc.). It can also be a bad sport when you see bad things happens among the players (such as violence, death, fighting, injuries, cheating and addictions etc). But the fact is “Sports was designed for good reasons, with healthy competitions to serves the good purpose to the players”.
In the opinion of those who studied, played and liked sports were determined to say that sports was designed by God and ordained by God. Therefore, like all of His creation, it was originally good. Similarly, I believe that God’s creativity made sportspeople who they are, intending them to lead them to become rich, full lives enjoying what He has given while bringing Him pleasure. God intentionally genetically designed and wired some people with superior sporting abilities.
For many people, playing sport is not merely an activity, but a vital part of who they are. Recognizing that God made some people with sporting abilities, and desires is an important point that should not be overlooked. Christians have felt the need to defend sports and sports participants with utilitarian purposes, such as a way to keep out of trouble. But these views overlook the idea that perhaps God made players with abilities simply for their enjoyment and pleasure.
So, I would simply say that sport is part of God’s creation, and morally an ethically neutral. The morality of sports is not determined by the objectives of the activity itself, but by the heart of the participants. God gave humans the ability to create sports within His created order. He filled the hearts of players with the desire to play. Yet as a result of sin, sports, like everything else, is now in bondage to decay. As redeemed people through faith in Jesus, we have the ability to restore sports as God intended. Our task as Christian people of sports is to play sports reflecting the image of Christ. That is, if sin has destroyed the good in sport, then perhaps the task of a Christian sportsperson is to reflect the image of Christ in the activity of sports so that sport can be played and enjoyed the way God intended.
A sportsperson who is a believer should know exactly where his self-image comes from. His identity is found in Christ alone. He can compete with the complete freedom to knowing that his identity is not based on his performance. The Late Latin, ‘competere’, of the word “compete” means to “come together to agree”. Thus, “competition”, in the best sense, is two opponents coming together to agree for the purpose of bringing the best out of each other, not the worst.
The believer can play his best with the intent to win while viewing his opponents as a challenge to improve his abilities and skill. He does not view his opponents as the enemy, but as one who can bring out his best in all areas; physically through skills and fitness level; socially through his relationships with the teammates, opponents and coaches; mentally through strategy and plays, spiritually through motivation and actions; and emotionally through self-control.
“Competition is inherent in sports! Whether it is cricket, football or volleyball, competition is a part of the experience. But what is competition? Definitions may vary based on your background, but in general terms most of the world defines competition as “win at all costs”, that destroys the good ethics and philosophy of games. Before you object to that definition, ask some few people. Or better yet, go watch a game and observe the demeanor and countenance of those who have been victorious and those who have not.
Interestingly enough the dictionary defines “to compete” as “to strive consciously or unconsciously in the pursuit of a goal or an objective.” While many would like to make competition wrong or bad, this definition seems to indicate that competition is neutral. Theologian and seminary instructor Dr. Rainer Martens says, “Sports are not inherently evil or inherently good – they are what we makes them.” By the same token, competition… the pursuit of a goal or objective… also is not inherently good or evil, but has the potential to become good of evil depending on how we pursue the goal.
He does not have to compete to defeat the opponents in order to feel good about himself; instead, he competes because of who he is. Nothing should differ from winning or losing the games, rather you should accept the defeats by appreciating your opponents who play better than you do. If you win, it is much easier to humble self and thank God. So, I strongly mandated that whether you win or lost you can still be yourself, to walk home the same person as when you come!
Thus, as believers in the world of sport, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our identity in Christ to people who are searching for healthy identities. What a strategic place and role the Christian competitor has as an agent of redemption in the ‘World of Sport for Christ’!