Playing the game
Life as a Christian in sports is not easy. The desire to win at all costs is infectious and can dangerously hinder a Christian attitude while playing sport. As a Christian involved in several local sports clubs, there are several things that help me maintain a Christian focus while playing sport.
I think the most important is to focus on who you are playing for – what is your audience? The organisation Christians in Sport has wristbands which say ‘Audience of one’.
It means that as Christians we should live our lives for God, and that extends to sport as well as every other part of life. When we play, we aren’t playing for the crowd or for ourselves or even for our team mates. We should be playing to glorify God.
After all, he gave us the abilities to hit a stunning free kick, score a try from 30 metres or perform any other feat. Shouldn’t we repay him by playing our sport for him?
So how can we glorify God in our sport? In my experience, it comes down to this – give absolutely 100% and play fair.
I play badminton mostly, and there are times when giving 100% is easy. Third game of a tournament final, the score 20-20, just two points needed to win the trophy. Sportspeople live for those moments and will give everything to win those points.
But God doesn’t want us to give all only when we’re winning. I was 10-0 down in a game recently and started thinking: ‘Why bother? I’ve lost the game; let’s just finish and go home’.
Then I noticed my ‘Audience of one’ wristband, and realised that God wants 100%, no matter what the situation, because we’re playing for him. We are using our gifts to glorify God, so we should use them to the max.
Back to the situation where you’re in a really close game and desperate to win. It’s easy to give 100% then, but how easy is it to play fair? In badminton you are often trusted to make calls of ‘in’ or ‘out’ when the shuttle lands on your side.
In a tight game, a dodgy call could make the difference between winning and losing. But God didn’t give us our talents to cheat our opponents but to glorify him, and to do that we must play fairly.
If we’re playing for an audience of one, what matters is not winning at all costs. It’s playing for God at all costs.