The tennis world was recently shaken at its core.
Not by a study identifying dozens of players on the pro circuit that have been fixing matches since 2008—including 16 in the top-50.
Rather, this tremor came from a choice in a recent match between Australian Lleyton Hewitt and American Jack Sock. When Sock encouraged Hewitt to challenge an umpire’s call that would ultimately result in Hewitt’s favor when overturned, the crowd reacts as though witnessing something rare and remarkable—because they are.
By sharing this clip, we’re not suggesting that players or coaches should start taking responsibility as referees, officials, or judges in their contests. That’s not the point.
But to see a person work against his own best interests and say yes to his conscience in the spirit of bringing about rightness is a moment worth reflecting on.
Beyond the obvious labeling of his behavior as good sportsmanship and no matter his own faith commitments, his choice in the moment demonstrates the look of gospel transformation. Here are four gospel reflections arising from this opportunity:
When athletes act against expectations, people noticeObserve the crowd reaction. They are giddy, bursting with applause for a rare act of self-sacrifice—even if only over a single point—they know rarely gets demonstrated. Their applause recognizes the specialness of the gesture, a genuine act of virtue.
Pre-game prayers, pointing to heaven after a score, and post-game God shout-outs pale in their effectiveness against the backdrop of demonstrable character in action.
On the scales of potential impact, actions that cost us something seem to weigh the most. A gesture that costs us nothing doesn’t have near the impact that unexpected sacrifice does—whether that sacrifice involves a score, a reputation, or competitive position.
Some things are more important than the scoreboardIn the midst of a game or a season, certain situations and circumstances present choices that transcend the scoreboard’s conclusion. Did you do the right thing when given an opportunity to cheat? Did you treat your opponent with dignity and respect in the midst of competing against them for the same prize? Did you give the best effort you had available for that day?
These questions, though underpublicized in today’s media market, remain the most critical because your answers to them say something about who you are, not simply what you appear to be or can produce on a stat sheet.
Have convictions and act on themWe don’t just wake up one day, find ourselves in the heat of battle faced with a choice, and automatically do the right thing. Righteous choices like the one we see in the clip begin with establishing and articulating (if only to yourself) convictions about how you want to live.
Where are your lines drawn? Do you even have any?
Under what circumstances are you willing to cheat yourself, your teammates or the game?
When you feel the leading of God’s Spirit do you immediately act in the moment or begin negotiating?
Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee winningSock went on to lose the match. Doing the right thing doesn’t mean you’ll come out on top of the scoreboard.
We can’t make a deal with God or demand a pact whose contractual obligations read something like “If I do the right thing, you (God) will make sure I win the game.”
What you can be assured of when you live surrendered to God’s standards is His favor toward you being extended in any number of other ways: peace in the midst of trials, guilt-free living, wisdom to say the right thing, grace for each moment of the day, the contentment that comes from being in His will.
You may win games too, but wins and losses in the Kingdom of God look far different than they do on the sports page.
God evaluates winners and losers according to a completely different scoring system. His desires are not displayed through us by tallying numbers on a board, but in choosing righteousness, justice, and godly character when faced with opportunities to do so.
“Do the right thing” is an idea constantly under attack from temptation to do the opposite--to protect our own kingdom instead building His--but also an idea that never goes out of style in God’s economy.
How Jack Sock usually carries himself on the court or lives the rest of his life is unknown to most of us, but for this one moment he demonstrates what it looks like to go against the grain in the spirit of rightness, justice, and fair play. Don’t miss your next opportunity to do the same.