Would Jesus like sport?

Would Jesus like sport?

At the Sports Quiz in June we talked about what the Bible says about sport. Here are some highlights.

Sport teaches us about life. 1 Timothy 4:8 says that “physical training is of some value.” So the Bible doesn’t roll its eyes or pat us on the head patronisingly for enjoying sport! Rather it says that sport can teach us valuable lessons about life.

For example, it can teach us about turning individuals into a team, defeat into success, ego into generosity. Many people up and down this country would not hesitate to say that sport has changed their lives. The Bible fully acknowledges that. Physical training does have value.

But sport also tortures us! At the time of writing England fans are about to embark on another roller-coaster of emotions during Euro 2016. Who knows what torture awaits us!

Often it’s torture because the dreams don’t come true in real life. For a match to be exciting there has to be a real possibility of losing. That’s what makes the magic. But if there’s a real chance of losing – there’s a real chance of losing!

There’s an even worse sort of torture that sport can put you through. Even worse than when my dreams don’t come true is when my dreams DO come true! Back in 2003 the Telegraph had an article by Steve Thompson MBE. He describes how he felt after achieving winning the Rugby World Cup and getting engaged to the girl of his dreams – all in 24 hours! The title of the article was this:

‘I’ve won the Cup and the girl I love. So why do I feel so flat?’

Everyone was at work by the time I got home and that was when it hit me. I can’t remember ever feeling so depressed. I told Fiona how down and empty I was. I know that sounds bad because people were expecting us to be happy after our achievement but – that’s how it was. The Grand Slam was very satisfying but the ultimate goal was to dominate on a global stage. And now that we had done it, there was a big hole, an emptiness. It was a case of: “What now?”

It wasn’t just Steve Thompson; Jonny Wilkinson said a very similar thing after his famous match winning drop-goal in the final against Australia. It reminds me of the famous anecdote about Alexander the Great weeping when he realised there were no more worlds to conquer! But that’s not all there is to say.

According to the Bible sport is a trailer for something even better. Like the trailers for a new film coming out at the cinema, the aim is to make sure you don’t miss out on the real thing! The full text of 1 Timothy 4:8 goes like this “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” Godliness there means ‘knowing Jesus Christ and having him run my life’.

So the Bible’s claim is that Jesus Christ offers us something which makes even the greatest sporting moments feel like a two-minute film trailer in comparison. God knows the dreams we have. He wasn’t mocking us when He put them into our hearts. He never meant for them to go unfulfilled. Sports may scratch the itch we have for camaraderie, victory, purpose and self-sacrifice – but only in Christ can that itch be fully and finally satisfied – in a way which starts in this life and then crescendos on into eternity in the life to come.

Leon Catallo