Athletics is a powerful medium of communication. We know more about our favorite quarterback than we do about the people who live on our street. The language of sports is vicarious. It is "our team" and "we" always play against "them" even though most of "us" are only watching. Without touching a ball or getting off the couch "we" either win or lose. Our fate is tied to our team.

To spare the loss of a great deal of life, ancient armies often employed the use of "the champion." The champion of one tribe would combat the champion of the other. Based on the outcome of two, an entire tribe won and an entire tribe lost. The most infamous example of the clash of the champions is the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Goliath, the Philistine champion, called out the nation of Israel and tied the fate of the entire nation to one. Israel had no champion, they had a David. Goliath got plunked in the head. The Philistines lost.

This vicarious life through our champions creates a strange cultural psychology that asks, "What can I get from my champion?" We expect, through their winnings, for our champions to supply us richly with pride, a sense of belonging, and euphoria. An entire week of joy rests on the outcome of a game. Yet, when the champion loses we feel a strong need to distance ourselves from him. He has ruined our life by losing. The champion must then suffer for our frustrations. We critique his life and performance, and in the case of coaches, feel the right to determine his fate without regard for his life, feelings, or family. We have suffered through his loss. The champion must atone.

The culture of sport in America has influenced the Christian church so thoroughly that we have lost focus of our true vicarious champion. The ability to live vicariously is a phenomenon of spiritual engineering that God hard wired in us so that the cross would thoroughly change us. Yet, for some reason the church has adopted an ethic of sports as if the cross does not apply. Christians have every reason to be impacted by the outcome of sports. It is a part of being human. It is the beauty of the game. It is natural to feel disappointment in a loss and joy in a win. But the follower of Christ has no right to exchange the attitudes of the fruits of the Spirit for what the rest of the surrounding culture may express or feel. Christians have no right to crucify their athletic champions or their coaches, no matter how they may feel about the loss. The athlete and the coach are merely men, they cannot possibly atone. Slander is slander even if it is just about sports. Christians have no reason to relate to sports, to teams, or to coaches in a way that negates the reality that Jesus has been crucified for them.

Jesus is our champion. Our fate is tied to His. We do not have God's permission to lose our minds, our witness, or our lives over sports.


Anonymous said…
Amen brother, it is unfortunate that so many who profess Christ will spend endless amounts of time seeking an imaginary relationship with thier sports team, and almost no time seeking to know thier God.

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