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Friday, October 29, 2010

Sports god

My friend and youth/college pastor at Clements Baptist Church wrote an excellent blog today on the dangers of being more obsessed by the pigskin than by Jesus Christ. I wrote some affirming comments and went on, even though this has been a topic heavy on my heart, I have been reticent to talk about it. It is almost like a golden calf in the South; an idol everyone worships but no one wants admit it. Why? The sports god is what gets a lot of these kids into college; the sports god is what fuels a lot of the pride we have in the regions we were born. The sports god gives a legitimate reason, in some cases, to hate another human being or group of human beings. The sports god is a substitute for the war god because in civilized society we don’t just gather armies and take over people’s land and stuff, right?

Sure we don’t.

The sports god has idols across the board and in every sport; if it is a competitive sport where someone wins and the other person loses, there you find the sports god. Now, I am not saying that everyone who plays a competitive sport worships the sports god; that would be like saying someone who practices on the saxophone often worships the music god. What I am saying is that the sports god demands unquestionable loyalty, even at the price of the spirituality of some of our kids. And it is not just the kids playing the sports, it is the people watching those sports. How many times have we gone to church and the first thing that comes out of our mouths is praise to the sports god?

I hate to say this, because I have been way guilty of this in the past, but here it is:

We are committing spiritual adultery, idolatry, every time we prefer the sports god to the Lord God.
Every time we sing the praise of our favorite sports team without even mentioning the work of God in our lives, we are worshiping the sports god. Every time we get so emotionally vested in a game that we get belligerent with people, we are worshiping the sports god. Every time our team losing ruins our entire evening, we are worshiping the sports god. Every time we start a ridiculous fight over team supremacy with someone else, we are worshiping the sports god. Every time we obsessively buy our teams merchandise rather than invest in the kingdom God, we are worshiping the sports god. Every time we chose our kids academic future, through sports, over their spiritual future, we are worshiping the sports god.

Every time sports are chosen over Christ; it is idolatry. Period.

Now you may object that sports are harmless fun and there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits us from partaking and enjoying them. You then may want to rush me with all of the verses you found (likely out of context) to justify your behavior and your choices. But my thing is not that sports are evil in of themselves. My point is that for us, sports are good things we pervert and turn into worship, and any time we do that, we are sinning against God and each other. What is the world going to believe, that you love the God you never say a word about or the god that you are always giving all of your words, money, and time to? Are we really kidding ourselves when we say we love God, but the first thing that comes out of our mouths is a score for some game?

Lord, please help us.

What if we were to do something radical? What if we picked our favorite sport (there are lots of them) and we decided that next season we were going to completely fast for that sport? For me that would mean going a whole fall without even looking at the scores for football; for one fall…could I do it? You may be thinking that this is extreme, but my question Is why do you think that? We are addicted to what we make excuses for so that we do not have to give it up. If you are currently thinking all of the reasons why you should notdo this, then perhaps you are addicted to sports and are constantly bringing your best to the altar of the sports god. I urge you, be zealous and repent, demonstrate your faith by doing something radical that shows your allegiance to Christ.

But if you are like me, you may be feeling a call of God to make a statement, a definitive statement that you serve the Lord Jesus Christ and not the sports god (or any god for that matter). If that is you, I want you to join me in something amazing. Whenever your favorite sports team’s season begins here is what you do:

1) Do not watch any of the games, do not even keep track of the scores and stats.

2) Instead, spend that time doing something that helps others and that advances the Gospel and the kingdom.

3) Do not buy any of your teams merchandise or tickets.

4) Instead, spend that money on things and people who advance the Gospel and the kingdom.

5) Do not talk about sports at church, school, or work.

6) Instead, talk about things that matter, especially your faith in a way that is natural and not confrontational.

I will have to wait until next football season to do this, but I am looking forward to making a statement about who is really the One worthy of my worship.

Grace and Peace


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