There is simply no debate that our culture loves sports. From the March Madness that accompanies the NCAA basketball every spring and is fast approaching, to the semi-religious national holiday that we recently celebrated called the Super Bowl, to the support that I see from our students during every home basketball game, we go gaga for a big game in the national spotlight. I am no exception, particularly if the game is basketball. The question becomes, do we love them too much?
During my freshman year of college here at OKWU, my roommate, who was a season ticket holder to Arkansas Razorback football games, asked me if I would like to attend a game with him. As Arkansas was undefeated and ranked top 10 in the nation at the time, I excitedly accepted the invitation. Little did I know at the time that the game that we would attend was against the top ranked and undefeated national powerhouse University of Alabama. This game was an amazing spectacle. There were seas of people everywhere, traffic stretching as far as the eye could see, and the scent of fresh barbeque drifting lazily on the cool fall breeze, and that was only before the game. Once we entered the game, it was clear I wasn’t exactly part of the Razorback faithful, as I was clueless to the numerous chants and hand motions used by seemingly every person in the stadium. Arkansas played exceedingly well en route to dominating the game and taking a 21 point lead in the first half. As the game wore on, however, the tide began to turn for Alabama (a terrible pun for you sports fans out there).
Alabama was able to regain the lead late thanks to several turnovers from Arkansas and eventually win the game. This wasn’t the lasting image of the game for me, however. What I saw that day was a large community of people worshipping the Arkansas Razorbacks. The unbridled jubilation that I witnessed as Arkansas built their lead has stuck with me to this day, as well as a quote from a man to a young child sitting in front of me. As the Razorbacks stretched their lead to 21, the man said to the boy, “You’re gonna tell your grandkids about this day! This is going to be the best day of your life. You’ll always remember when the Razorbacks beat #1 Alabama!” This quote, in a nutshell, depicts many people’s approach to sports. With the attendance for this particular game over 80,000, this man’s sentiments were certainly not alone on that day. So where does this leave us? Are we to hate sports or ignore them in the name of not loving them too much?
Ultimately the question must be, have we taken a good thing and elevated it to an ultimate thing?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of big games and sports in general. I have done it many times, but in so doing I have also had my hopes dashed and my joy stolen as a result of my team being unable to deliver a victory. This is an unfortunate way of life. The good news is that Jesus is better than sports. We are free to enjoy sports, and even learn some positive things from them, such as discipline, teamwork, and being a part of something bigger than ourselves. But no game or competition can ever support the weight of our soul. That role can only be filled by Jesus. Matthew 11:28 states, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus frees us from stressing out over our sports teams and allowing our emotions to be ruled by them. So enjoy the game, friends. But don’t worship it. Jesus is much better.
In the following video, Pastor Mark Driscoll sits down with a few players and one coach of the Seattle Seahawks leading up to their 2014 playoff run on their faith in Jesus Christ and how it intersects with life on and off the football field.