Several people have blogged about March Madness or asked me personally about which team or bracket I was pulling for. So I thought I would get some of my thoughts out in public view.
To start, I am not completely against sports or even watching sports, and I am not against playing sports. Sometimes I am a bit competitive.
Having said that, I think sports are one of the most anti-kingdom creations of man. This started with the idea of thousands of people screaming themselves hoarse on Saturday because the care so much about their favorite team. Sunday roles around, and they feel amazing if they can get up and make it to church, but when they arrive, they are marginally as enthusiastic about worship. Something looks like an idol when that happens to me.
Performance and Grace
In sports, winning counts more than anything. Occasionally you might hear of someone who focuses on how you play the game, but the majority of hype revolves around the winners. In fact, coaches use every form of manipulation they can to produce winners. They nag, badger, shame, guilt, equivocate, verbally abuse, punish and use any other form of lever they can to get the best performance possible out of their athletes. When we win, they offer us praise. When we lose, they shame and then remove all attention. Then they leaves us alone in our imposed condemnation.
Grace focuses on inclusion because it’s based on freedom and gift giving. It always invites us into relationships that are redeeming and restoring. It cares more about the person than what they do. Practicing grace involves us in our grief and brings fellowship where there was condemnation.
Competitive Divisiveness and Unity
Being competitive only separates winners from losers. This competition gives a false sense of value. When you win, you feel like a winner. You feel better than everyone else. At least until the next competition. Then it’s time to ramp up and perform again. Anxiety sets in. What if we can’t beat the competition? What if we lose this sense of being better? This is self-condemnation at it’s best. It bases self-worth on performance.
Grace treats everyone as equals. It thrives in celebrating distinctions but dies in feelings of separation due to superiority. With grace, we know our need. We live in the tension of being needy and being completely accepted in our needs. We live in the freedom of having to perform.
Imposed Identity over Revealed Identity
The thing that bugs me the most about sport is the way people say, “We won!” Really, I didn’t see you out there on the field. People, for whatever reason, identify with a team and the team becomes their identity. This identity is false though, because it comes from outside of a person. The ease in which we celebrate others is corrupted by our own need to own what is good about something else. It’s a false sense of who we are.
Grace reveals identity by allowing us to accept ourselves for who we are. We see the good and the bad. This true self becomes our focus instead of the performance of something outside of us.
All of this is probably a buzz kill for many sports fans. Don’t let it be. If you enjoy sports, please don’t let this blog change that. However, if any of this made sense, please do search yourself for what grace gives you.