ANSWER: There is a danger in asking questions like this. Peter once asked, “But Lord, what about this man?” The answer he received from the Lord was, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (Jn. 21:21-22). The apostle Paul wrote, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:12-13).
A better question for each of us to ask is, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). As a Christian, why would I play organized sports? Is it for “bodily exercise” which “profits a little” (1 Tim. 4:8)? In such a case, is it necessary for the sports to be “organized”? Would this bring me into an unequal yoke with unbelievers, something that I, as a Christian am not to do (2 Cor. 6:14)? Is it to display my skill or to make a name or a fortune for myself? Jeremiah was told to tell his friend Baruch, “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jer. 45:5).
In the same verse of God’s Word where I am twice told that “all things are lawful for me,” I am also told, “but all things are not helpful … but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12). And further on in the same book I am told, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Its author, Paul writes in another letter, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).
Might it not be an ever-present danger for me in participating in organized sports, at least in professional sports, that the sport rather than Christ would become central in my life? And how would it be with my time? Sundays are often used for organized sports by the world, at least by the western world. But for me as a Christian, this day is the Lord’s Day – not my day, not a holiday, not even necessarily a day of rest, but the day that belongs to the Lord. Will my using it in organized sports promote Him and His interests in this world?
One other area of caution: Many teams, at least professional sports teams, are owned by individuals or private corporations. Sport events are frequently associated with drinking, gambling, and other vices. Can I as a Christian please my Lord in being associated with such things, or would I have to compromise my conscience? A very simple answer to our question is, “Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves … for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:22-23).
I am aware that there are men and women of outstanding ability in many areas of organized sports who are outstanding true Christians. In all honesty of heart, they may be seeking to use their God-given athletic abilities to glorify God. Some clearly voice their faith and give public testimony to their Lord. I do not condemn them. Rather, when Christ is thus proclaimed, even under circumstances I might otherwise question, “I rejoice and will rejoice,” as did the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:18.
By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.