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Is Our Play Godly or Godless?

John Perritt
Is our play godly?
Is our play godly?

FOR many, Tom Brady is considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game of football. He is equally loved and loathed by any who follow the National Football League. Whether or not you are a lover or hater of Brady, his name will inevitably find its way into a discussion on elite quarterbacks. 

A few years ago, he was interviewed on the television show 60 Minutes. As he was reflecting on his years in the game, his many accomplishments, and the millions he was making from football, he said something that should resonate with anyone who has a heartbeat. At the time of this interview he had won three Super Bowls (he has now won four), and he said, ‘Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? There’s gotta be more than this.’ In essence Brady was saying, ‘I’ve accomplished all you can hope to accomplish in the NFL, and it still isn’t enough.’

Now, whether you are a Christian or not, this statement should rock you to your core. Here is a person who has reached a level in life many will never reach. Young men grow up longing, dreaming, striving to get where Brady is. They hope to be that Super Bowl quarterback or receiver or running back and have structured much of their life around this specific longing. Yet here is a guy who has been on the other side telling us it isn’t enough. It will not bring fulfillment. It cannot.

Unbelievers hear this statement and think, ‘This guy has won the greatest game you can play in football, multiple times. He has a supermodel wife. He has more money than I will ever see. And there’s something that’s leaving him unsatisfied.’

Believers hear this statement and think, ‘This guy has won the greatest game you can play in football, multiple times. He has a supermodel wife. He has more money than I will ever see. And there’s something that’s leaving him unsatisfied.’

Believers know Brady needs Christ. They know about this ‘God–shaped–void’ in the human heart. They know that Jesus Christ is the only one who can fill that void. They know the
answer, yet their struggle is the same as the unbeliever. The fallen human heart just doesn’t believe that God can bring ultimate satisfaction, so it looks for it elsewhere resulting in idolatry. G. K. Beale defines idolatry as, ‘whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security.’

Stewardship recognizes a Creator and all things flowing from that Creator, as stated in chapter one. Therefore, idolatry, is the polar opposite of stewardship. It’s perverting gifts that were meant to glorify the Giver. ‘[T]he primal problem with idolatry,’ says Beale, ‘is that it blurs the distinction between the Creator God and the creation. This both damages creation (including ourselves) and diminishes the glory of the Creator.’

The caution for each of us is to fully understand the condition of our heart. Since we are sinful, we will be prone to worship sports. Our sinful hearts will, far too often, worship the creature over the Creator. We must humbly realize that we spend too much time, money, and energy on our children’s sports teams, quite often. 

Kluck addresses this caution when he says, ‘As a coach I’ve had film sessions and games on Sundays. And even on those Sundays when I went to church before the game, I confess I wasn’t worshipping. I was wondering what to call on third and–long. I know how difficult this issue is – and it’s difficult because of how much I love football … The problem comes when I need [competition] in order to feel happy or peaceful.’ When our sports become a need and a love, we must be cautious of the idolatrous nature of our human heart.

To quote Prince once more, ‘I am an unabashed fan of sports, but I do not write this chapter primarily as a fan; rather, I write as a Christian pastor and seminary professor. This discussion of sports fandom begs the question: Is the fanaticism good or bad? My answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” – it all depends on whether sports are summed up in Christ or abstracted from him.’

In order to make our sports a more godly experience and disciple our children in this understanding, we must see the Creator behind the creation. When you cheer an amazing athletic accomplishment, remember the God that is behind that moment, not simply the particular athleticism you just witnessed, but also the emotions that accompany it. The unity that was shared in the stands. The joy that comes out in an eruption of applause. The discussions that take place long after, in some cases years after, the moment is over.

All of it points to our gracious and loving Creator. Christian, do not miss this truth of the great God we worship. By knowing Him and worshiping Him more fully, we will begin to worship sports less and enjoy them on a deeper level. I love how Jeremy Treat says it, ‘[W]hen viewed through the lens of Scripture, sports are more than game, less than a god, and when transformed by the gospel can be received as a gift to be enjoyed forever.’


Time Out!
Time Out!

This extract is from chapter two of Time Out! – The Gift or God of Youth Sports by John Perritt

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