As Christians we understand that everything we do is to be an act of worship (1 Cor. 10.31) and if we do anything that does not glorify God then we ought to repent and get busy doing what is honorable to our Lord. So what about watching sports? How can you watch sports to the glory of God?
I will speak from the perspective of the superior sports product in the world, the NFL. I enjoy the NFL. I’ve always watched my hometown Patriots (as I did even when they stunk back in the days of Tony Eason).
Let me first say that as an unbeliever I was sports guy. I watched ESPN all the time, and any game that was on had my attention. I seamlessly transitioned between seasons worshiping….errr….watching my favorite teams. So I have a frame of reference for what being a sports fan is not supposed to be like.
So then I become a Christian and have to continually examine my life for idols, those vicious parasites that I affix to my soul and siphon off the worship of God. This is a good and healthy practice for all of us. Does the fact that I used to pervert sports mean that I should not enjoy them? I do not think so. I believe that sports, along with everything else that is not sinful, should be sanctified and enjoyed to the glory of God. So what follows is my own frame of reference as I watch sports.
/1/ See the players as image bearers. I watch guys like Rob Gronkowski with his freakish physical ability and I marvel at the God who made someone who can jump, run, mash and catch like this guy. I watch Tom Brady dissect a defense in a matter of seconds and throw a pass between two defenders hitting his receiver in stride on his outside shoulder and think of his creator. I look at the size of a guy like Vince Wilfork whose arms are bigger than my thighs (seriously) and watch how quick he is and just think about how amazing the human body is, the way God made it so that we can, by hard work, strengthen, condition, and improve it. I watch a coach like Bill Belichick who has opposing coaches staying up all night trying to be creative because they know the guy is a football genius; I watch him and worship the God who gave him such a great mind.
/2/ Take opportunities to talk to your kids. Football is a great game to point out things like hard work, discipline, training, strategy, and passion. However it is also a great place to expose the unrestrained and shameless self-promotion of fallen hearts. There are plenty of examples of guys who regrettably exalt themselves, you don’t have to look too far. It is a great discipleship tool to show the kids the heart as we watch guys like that.
The Patriots are a great tool for kids. They epitomize the picture of team and unity, which is refreshing in our age of individualism in sports (you may remember that they would not allow individual introductions in the Super Bowl but insisted that they come out as a team). But even with these favorable things there are negative. Tom Brady is not a moral role model. On the football field they provide opportunities to promote physical discipline and off the field they provide good fodder for promoting spiritual discipline through their blunders and pointing to the ultimate hero, Jesus. (this is kind of like the picture of the OT Kings, ok, maybe it is a reach).
/3/ Think about Providence. For me growing up in Massachusetts I have never rooted against the Red Sox, Celtics, or Pats, it is just where I grew up. I think about how God has seen fit to put me in various circumstances growing up and then save me from my sin. In many ways I have broken from the old Erik, however, the sports teams and the logos are the same. I find myself thinking a lot about providence in the way God has worked in my life to bring me to the proper use of created things and a delight in the Creator.
/4/ Watch games with your wife. Men this is a hidden blessing, you have to work but the joy is in the work…trust me. Some of you may have the benefit of a wife who has been discipled by a sports dad so they get it. However, other guys, like me, get to try to teach sports to our wife. I really enjoy this. Christie asks so many good questions and gets pretty excited (she gets excited about a lot of things, but it is a different excitement when Brady hits Branch on a go-route then other things). I love watching games with Christie it is a great time to work on clear explanations and it is a fun thing to do together.
/5/ Watch games with friends. Sports are a great time to hang out with friends. We can get together watch a game, interact with life, share families and enjoy a game. It is fun and refreshing.
While we are on the subject, here are some dangers to watch out for in case you are unbalanced…
- if you are having your day ruined because your team lost you may have inverted your team for God and probably need to repent.
- if you have replaced your wife with your team then you are a sports adulterer and also need to repent. If you would rather watch dudes beat the heck out of each other than spend time with your wife, you have issues that need to be looked at. She is your bride not your favorite quarterback, so act like it.
- if your enjoyment of sports crowds out your discipleship of your family or your service in the church you need to repent and make some changes. I can’t imagine standing before the Lord and reciting Tom Brady’s quarterback rating instead of hearing my Master’s approval for laboring for the souls of my wife and kids and those in my church.
- ask yourself if you are more excited about the game than reading the word, praying, hearing preaching, or serving in the church. Be honest.
Hopefully this is helpful. We are always trying to inspect our lives for balance. So don’t falsely divide your life into unbiblical categories like “sacred and secular” for this is skimping God of what is due him. Instead, worship God in everything, including the enjoyment of sports to his glory.
And by the way, Patriots 27 Giants 23