Who is Jesus and What Does He Have To Do With Your Sport?
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Athlete, if you are wondering what Jesus has to do with your sport, it’s helpful to think about who He is.
If Jesus is just a “spiritual” man who pertains to the “unseen” realm, He doesn’t have much to do with your sport. If Jesus is just a religious icon or theological idiom, He doesn’t have much to do with your sport. If Jesus is just the one we worship in church, or a mere moral gatekeeper, He doesn’t have much to do with your sport.
If Jesus is just the figurehead of a group who has certain values, He doesn’t have much to do with your sport. If Jesus can’t wait to get you out of your body, so you can finally be “spiritual,” He doesn’t have much to do with your sport.
But if Jesus is the one in whom, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NIV), and “all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16), then He has everything to do with your sport. If Jesus is the one who made you in His image, and made your body a temple, He has everything to do with your sport.
If Jesus went to great lengths to be involved with every aspect of your life, humanity, and body, He has everything to do with your sport. If Jesus intends to inhabit Earth through you now and cares enough about your flesh and bones to redeem them, He has everything to do with your sport.
Given those Bible verses and thoughts, it seems like the Christian view on sports is obvious. But I’ve heard Christians say things like, “This life doesn’t matter, I’m living for the unseen,” “Our bodies are traps,” “I can’t wait to get out of my body,” and “Sports aren’t spiritual.” (I’ve said those things too.)
But those mantras come from distortions of the Scriptures. So, in Christianity, our bodies are commonly misunderstood. We arrive at views that are more consistent with Platonism and Gnosticism than Christianity.
In this way of thinking,
1) The spirit and body are separate — not interconnected.
2) The material realm, including our bodies, is evil and only the immaterial realm is good and spiritual.
3) The body needs to be transcended or escaped to attain spirituality or salvation.
4) Embodiment is a curse or demotion.
5) Our bodies are sources of shame and self-contempt.
We can see how those distortions happen. They contain elements of Christianity, and that’s why they have traction in the church. But let’s look deeper.
We know our “flesh” has been crucified. And indeed, if we live according to the flesh, we die. And yes, we are to fix our eyes on the unseen, not the seen. And yes, this world and its desires are passing away.
But the “flesh” (in Galatians 5:24 and Romans 8:13) refers to our sin nature, not our physical bodies. Fixing our eyes on the unseen (in 2 Corinthians 4:18) doesn’t imply degrading God’s good creation. And the “world” (in 1 John 2:17) refers to the sphere of thoughts and ways incongruous with God’s.
Those verses don’t mean our literal flesh and bones are in opposition to our spiritual life of faith. They don’t mean this life doesn’t matter. They don’t mean our literal bodies are the source of our spiritual failure. They don’t mean escaping our bodies is our only hope.
Paul was clear when he said our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We aren’t at war with our physical bodies, or planet Earth, but the powers of the dark world.
But if Jesus is the one in whom, “we live and move and have our being,” then He has everything to do with your sport.
Athlete, ponder these ways God has affirmed and honored our bodies:
1) Jesus touched and healed our sick bodies.
2) The Son of God became fully human and He always will be. He was raised from the dead into a body and our resurrected bodies will be “like His” (Philippians 3:21) in the physical new heavens and new earth.
3) It’s God’s intention to liberate us into our bodies — not liberate us from them. We wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23) not their condemnation.
4) Our relationship with God was, is, and always will be an embodied endeavor.
5) Jesus honored our experience by sharing in our meals, tears, grief, and emotions.
6) Jesus wasn’t repulsed by our humanity. He treated us as holistic, integrated beings, not souls trapped in bodies or brains on sticks.
7) Jesus made us sacred, which means there is an inherent sacredness to all we do (Psalm 44:8, 1 Peter 1:15), not just the things we deem “spiritual.”
8) Jesus made our flesh-and-bone-self the vehicle in which God’s kingdom comes into the world.
9) Jesus made our bodies the place in creation where He dwells and where we can encounter Him — rather than a faraway, ethereal place.
10) God is going to make the body you play your sport in to be, in some way, shape, or form, your permanent address. So, in a way, your body is a trap. But not in the way we sometimes talk about it.
Athlete, sometimes the locker room, pregame, and huddle feel holy to you. Your friends and college experience seem holy. You don’t have to feel guilty for feeling like those things are hallowed. It’s actually unspiritual to call those things unspiritual, since the divine has mingled with humanity and humanity has mingled with the divine.
Your hunch is right — the physical Earth is crammed with God’s glory. Your intuition is correct — Jesus has moved into the neighborhood. Hopefully, you are delighted to learn what you already knew.