"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play…it is war minus the shooting."
Compete as a Christian or don't compete at all
Scott Reavily in his MPhil thesis on competition, came to the conclusion that for the Christian: "the case against competition is more compelling than the case for it". If he is right, then Christians had better get out of sport.
If he is right Christians need not only to stop playing sport but also to stop doing business or entering politics as they will be obliged to allow their opponents to win every time! It is our view that Christians can and must stay in sport and face the tensions head on.
I believe, however, that the challenge for the Christian competitor is to bring a higher quality of competition into sport. That is the crux of the issue we are addressing. Christians are to take God's world of sport and regain it for his glory. The world of sport, in Calvin's phrase should become a "theatre of God's glory". Christians are to be fully engaged in competitive sport, using their God-given talents to the full, giving 100% commitment to the contest. At the same time that commitment is to be given in a spirit of loving one's neighbour as oneself.
There have been many examples of treating one's opponent with love in the history of sport. For example, Eugenio Monte removing the bolt from his own bob and giving it to the UK team whose bolt had broken in the 1964 Winter Olympics - ultimately sacrificing his own gold medal chance; or tennis player Nduka Odizor lending an opponent a pair of his grass court shoes before playing him in a tournament.
I suggest that the Christian is to compete with three attitudes:
that competitive sport, like everything else for the Christian should be an act of worship;
that we are to love our neighbour (ie our team mate, opponent and the officials) as ourselves; and
that as Christ's representatives we must play Christianly.
What better arena is there in which to exhibit the love of Christ than sport, as players love team mates as themselves, as they care for each other and make sacrifices for each other?
Accepting defeat as not the end of the world, and being content to have given 100% for God, may be a radical concept. It is also how Christians need to express their Christian faith amidst the challenges of professional sport.