Should there appear in one of the editions of the Standard Bearer an article or two concerning the happenings in the world of sport we would be shocked. Should there be a detailed report of the progress and outcome of the World’s Series in the baseball realm, we would shake our heads and say, “What is this world coming to?” Should one of our daily newspapers publish upon its sport page, items of news concerning one of our churches we would feel highly insulted. The reason for this is that we all feel keenly that the church has nothing to do with sports and that sports are out of place in the life of the church. What then of the individual church member, the Christian, what must his attitude be in regard to sports? May he indulge in them? May he follow their development and daily happenings? We hope in this essay to pen down a few thoughts on this matter.
We do well to bear in mind that a Christian is not merely a church member. He is a disciple of Christ following Him in all His teachings and walking after the pattern He gave us. He is one who partakes of Christ’s anointing. The name Christ means anointed. Hence we receive the name Christian. Christ was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest and King. We as Christians are likewise anointed to be prophets, priests and kings of God. As prophets, we are to serve Him with our mind. As priest, we serve Him with our hearts. Our kingly office we fulfill by serving Him with our strength. In one word we may say that a Christian is one who, through the Spirit of Christ, is entirely dedicated to God so that he thinks, wills, and acts only to God’s honor and glory. In the measure we do this we are like Christ. In this measure we are Christians.
If we, now, approach the question bearing this in mind, we will have come quite a distance closer to the right conception of the Christian’s relation to sports. The whole matter rests on the answer to this question, “Can we with mind, heart and strength glorify God by indulging in the sports of today?” The snoots of today may be divided into the competitive sports such as baseball, football, basketball, racing skating, golf, tennis and the like and such sports as hunting and fishing, wherein one does not compete with another. Some of the competitive sports, however, also lend themselves to individual indulgence and do not always contain the element of competition. Thus it is plainly with swimming, skating and golf.
You feel at once that many things will fall away and (be denied us when we hold fast to the above description of the. Christian. If he is, and he most assuredly is, dedicated to God with body and soul, heart, mind and strength, life becomes very small for him. We must not let this turn our hearts or minds away and seek to excuse behavior which is not Christian according to the standard given above. Let me first prove my contention that this is the right conception of the Christian. Jesus, Himself, says, “Whosoever would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Coming after Him is being His disciple, and that is what a Christian is. Paul declares, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we Jive unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” Or, if you will read. There we are taught that the Christian, presented here as the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, must indeed be dedicated wholly to God or he is unfit to be a disciple of Christ.
We need not be hasty, now, in drawing our conclusions, but we must be honest. The element of competition in sports does not condemn them, unless this competition tends to prevent our glorifying God with the strength and talents He gives us. That is one of the great gangers in competitive sports. We soon become angry and jealous and say things that are not to God’s glory or even resort to physical violence. This need not be the case, but only too often it is.
In a limited space as is allotted for this essay all the phases of sport cannot be treated. A few words can be said, however, concerning some of them. In general let it first be stated that when the child of God resorts to any sport to keep his body fit in order that he thereby may serve God, there is no danger in sports. One does need recreation. Paul makes mention of the race more than once. Were it, as such, sinful he would not borrow the figure of this sport. But let it be understood that is must be recreation and must not be carried to extreme so that we play until exhausted, go without food in order to get to the ball parks in time or play even when tired from a day’s work. Such behavior is not to God’s glory. We may not indulge in sports for sport’s sake. Such sports as football, wherein one endangers his life or runs the risk of serious injury, must certainly be condemned. Likewise, the sport of automobile racing, wherein one in no way prepares himself for service to God, is of the evil.
In regard to the organized sports practiced by the world as baseball, football, basketball and the like, it is the conviction of the undersigned that the Christian should have nothing to do with them and should have no interest in the activities of these godless men who desecrate God’s sabbath and live for self and no£ for God. Their activity is to no degree at all to God’s honor and glory. What is not to His glory should be loathsome to us. Should we care to know who is the world’s champion if he or they excel only in that which is not to ‘God’s glory? When two men fight like beasts in the boxing ring, it is not the Christian who enjoys this. A mind and heart dedicated to God will shudder to see or hear the wonderful body God gave us undergoing such devilish abuse. The Christian’s heart is full of love, but the prizefighter’s is full of hate. No one who loves his neighbor would think of stabbing and punching his body so brutally. No Christian will want to witness it or listen to it over the radio. When dogs fight, we stop them. Yet this human brutality is enjoyed by many. If the child of God listens and enjoys these things, it is his old man of sin and he must fight against it and not give in to that lust of his flesh.
Paul warns us that in the last days men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Beware then lest you find yourself in that category. Are you a Christian? Then live a life dedicated to God.
How often is it not that we find a child who knows all the baseball players in a certain team with their batting averages but cannot tell you the names of the twelve apostles! There are grownups who are no better. Shame on us. The one sin also leads to another, for on the sabbath we cannot let the world go, but either wonder all day how the game is coming out, or else, under the pretense of looking for music on the radio, go past the station where the scores are being given. That is not the activity of a Christian. Do not deceive yourself. If the world has such a hold on us, we should examine ourselves and .ask ourselves whether we are really Christians after all. We must not be Christians merely in name.
If I may have a few more lines, I would also like to remark briefly on the sports of hunting and fishing. A Christian may practice them. The disciples were fishermen. Isaac sent Esau to hunt for venison. However, the Christian does not fish for the sport of it, and the Christian hunter does not hunt for the sport of it. We see too much shooting of harmless creatures by boys and men just for the sport of shooting. This is decidedly wrong and sinful. Only God can give life, and having given it to creatures we may not without a good reason take that life away. If the creature does not harm us, let it live. How little we think of life! Likewise is the practice of fishing for the fun of feeling the struggling fish, and then having caught it, release it to have the same experience some other day, If we do not fish and hunt for food, we have no right to fish and hunt. Hunting and fishing are not sports for the Christian. They are means whereby he seeks the food God has provided for him.