Now that you have outed yourself to the world as a follower of Christ, the world—more specifically, your new Christian fan base—has some expectations of you. It’s important for me to point this out right out the gate, however, that these standards do not apply to us as fans.
Perhaps you didn’t know, but in telling world you are a Christian, you have agreed to be morally perfect on and off the playing field. Our theology of God and sport, as your fan base, does not allow grace to exist for athletes like you.
From this point forward, anytime you make a mistake, we retain the right to question your salvation. Anytime you cross the line (our line that we have created for “our” Christian athletes), we have a right to question how serious you really are with your faith. What are those lines that we have created and assume to be known to all God-fearing athletes?
1. Thou shalt always answer the first interview question with "First off, I just want to give all the glory to God," but only after a win.
We. Love. This. Nothing wakes up a fan base like ours as much as an “all glory to God” shout out. But here is the thing: our theology only allows us to be excited about this after you win. Please don’t bring God into the national spotlight in the moments after a loss, we enjoy keeping God in the box we placed Him in when it comes to sports. You may feel like praising God when things go poorly, but we would rather see you sulk with the rest of us.
2. Thou shalt never swear during competition
Very few things will cause us to questions how serious you take your faith like catching you swearing in a heated moment in the game or in the press conference that follows. Need proof? See how quickly we have turned on Kevin Durant as exhibit A.
And don’t you dare call me a hypocrite. Sure, I am prone to emotional outbursts when I strike my finger with a hammer or spill the gallon of milk in the kitchen, but if cameras were fixed on me, I am 90% sure I could control my mouth.
3. Thou shalt never use your platform to talk about anything but Jesus
You have been given a platform for one simple reason: to talk about your faith in Jesus. The spotlight should never be used to address issues of social justice or politics. Too many of us have differing opinions on “that other stuff.” Many of us have already thrown Steph Curry under the bus for speaking out publicly about something other than Jesus.
4. Thou shalt especially not use your platform to talk about race
This is piggybacking off the last commandment, but it deserves its own spot. If you are going to stray from the “only talk about Jesus” commandment, please talk about anything but issues of race. Our reasoning? For many us, we don’t think there is an issue to actually talk about. It’s made up. Need evidence? Check out the comments on this post from September.
5. Thou shalt never get political, but if you do, those beliefs should be conservative
Another commandment regarding your platform. We are flexible on what we allow you to say politically, if—and only if—you side with conservative values.
6. Thou shalt never appear frustrated after a loss
Being a Christian means we—and by we I obviously mean just you—need to always keep perspective. As a fan, I am allowed to be visibly frustrated when “my team” loses. But you are held to a different standard, a higher standard. So keep that in mind the next time you lose. Muster up the best smile you can and externally act like you are not bothered by the result. Everyone knows that a Christian athlete is never flustered.
7. Thou shalt not celebrate too much after a win
As long as you play for the team we cheer for, feel free to celebrate freely. However, if you have just defeated “our” team and consider yourself a Christian, please be humble in victory. Acceptable forms of celebration are: shaking the hands of your opponents, pointing up to heaven to give God credit, and, obviously, verbally giving thanks to God if you are interviewed. Unacceptable forms of celebration include screaming “YES!” too loudly, jumping around with your teammates, and crying. Don’t cry. It is proof that you care too much about your sport. And that’s idolatry.
8. Thou shalt always repent publicly
This is important to remember: if you violate any of these commandments, be sure to repent publicly. After all, you are not only offending God, but just as importantly, us. We may or may not grant you forgiveness, but that should not stop you from humbling yourself enough to ask for it.
9. Thou shalt never show frustrations toward an official
Again, If you are a follower of Christ, you need to have your emotions in check at all times. We are always watching and ready to point out your flaws in this area. When an official makes an outrageous call, and they will, you need to appear unfazed. In fact, be grateful for the bad call against you as it will serve as an opportunity to refine your character. Leave the “hating on officials” to us.
10. Thou shalt never let the other team get under your skin
If Jesus did not respond in sin to the men crucifying Him, you should be able to keep your cool in something as silly as a game. Try not to take it so seriously. Leave the overreacting and trash talking to us as fans. It’s not ok when you do it on TV for my kid to see, but it’s completely fine if I do it on my couch when he is sitting next to me.
*This article is written in jest.
It is meant to poke—or more appropriately, jab—at our tendency as Christian fans to overreact when athletes who identify as Christians cross the line. Whether it is a line that God has established through His word, or a line that we have created based off of our own assumptions. The foundation and defining characteristic of a Christian is not perfection, but forgiveness. As Christ-followers, we—myself included—need to grow in our ability to see people as God sees them and not pigeonhole them on both ends of the “Either awesome or awful” spectrum. In his new book, Tim Keller offers some helpful insights on what this looks like:
“Biblical wisdom, however, brings discernment to the skill of the daily living of life itself. To be wise is to recognize multiple options and possible courses of action where others can imagine only one or two. Wisdom discerns multiple dimensions to people’s motives and character, rather than putting everyone into the binary categories of ‘good people’ and ‘bad people.’ Discernment is also the ability to tell the difference not just between right and wrong but also among good, better, and best. Christians find that as Christ’s love in our hearts grows, so does ‘depth of insight’ (Philippians 1:9). His love heals the self-absorbed ego and enables us to notice and be sensitive to others around us.”
Yes, let’s hold our Christian athletes to a high standard of excellence, but let’s do so against the backdrop that they are still humans who will fall. May we, as a community of Christ followers, see the athletes who identify as our brothers and sisters as broken people, like ourselves, in need of constant grace. And may we understand that the grace that God gives to all of us flows from a fountain that will never run dry.