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"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

Vince Lombardi


Love your neighbour as yourself . (Mark 12:31).

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and the second most important was this to love your neighbour as yourself.

How can you love people in the tough, competitive world of sport? Yet if players’ attitudes to opponents and the officials were motivated by love, just imagine how sport would be transformed.

How do you love your team mate as yourself, if she has just taken your place in the team for the cup final? Loving your team mates can be difficult. Yet as sportspeople, our sports team is the natural place to model what we’ve learnt in the Bible. The Christian player’s role in the team should be to bring the qualities of Christ into the team.

One member of the GB Rowing squad explained to me that they are a team for 2-3 months of the year. In all the training camps in preparation for those 2-3 months it is a real dog-eat-dog situation as everyone battles for selection. How do you share a room with, eat dinner with, relax with someone who stands in your way to fulfilling your dream of Olympic selection? It takes a lot of grace.

Then there are one’s opponents. If we see our opponent, not as our enemy but as our neighbour, and moreover a neighbour whom Jesus tells us to love as ourselves, it certainly affects our attitude to them. We treat our opponent in the way we want to be treated: with respect. We want a fair game. We want a good contest. We want our opponent to push us to perform at our best. People often think that being loving and being competitive is an ‘either or’ but in this setting love is to be competitive! One could go as far as to say that if you cannot love your opponent as yourself, you cannot play sport for God’s glory.

Loving the referee and the match officials can also be a challenge – always my biggest problem. A good question would be: how can I help the officials to produce a fair contest rather than how much can I get away with in today’s game?

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