As I watch the soccer matches on TV during the world’s greatest
sports’ event–the Worldcup 2006, which is being held in Germany–I
find myself cheering for “my” teams. Actually, I have been cheering for
two teams–the Germans and the Americans. Having grown up in Germany, I
know what the German soccer team is capable of accomplishing–but
having lived for over 25 years in the United States and having seen the
rise of the US national team from insignificant beginnings to a
respectable level, I hoped that they would do well during this Worldcup
(which is only held every four years for one month).
At the same
time, I am reminded of the former days when–at least sometimes–teams
played with joy, dignity and class. I remember many occasions when
German or English players helped an injured opponent, while the game
was going on. And I know how impressed I was as a child or young man
when I saw the team’s fans applaud the opponent for a good
accomplishment. While some national teams were known for playing
somewhat “unfair,” there were other national teams which hardly, if
ever, fouled their opponent. Especially England’s teams and fans were
known for a sportsmanship and gentleman-like attitude–but today,
English fans are considered to be amongst the worst in the world.
all sports have terribly deteriorated, and soccer is by no means an
exception. Although originally designed as a “no-touch” game, which did
not permit a player to as much as intentionally “touch” another player
(except for using one’s shoulder to touch the opponent’s shoulder), we
see more and more “professional fouls,” and we are used to referees
issuing warnings and giving out yellow cards and even red cards
(signifying expulsion from the game).
Therefore, some have
concluded that God does not approve of any competitive sports. But this
conclusion is not necessarily correct.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-26,
Paul draws a spiritual analogy to competition in sports. This passage
does not seem to allow for the conclusion that such competition is
necessarily wrong. Paul says:
“Do you not know that those who run
in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that
you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate
in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for
an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty…”
draws another analogy in the book of Psalms, comparing the sun with “a
bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to
run its race” (Psalm 19:5).
As is true for every walk of life,
God wants us to enjoy what we are doing (Ecclesiastes 8:15; 9:7, 9;
11:9). This applies to both a team and supporting fans. But God does
not want us to have an attitude of harming or injuring an opponent, or
of wishing that he be injured so that “our” team will get an advantage.
When “competition” reaches that destructive level, it is wrong. But to
want “our” team to win in a game is not wrong. And “our” team had
better make every right effort to win, so that it is deserving of “our”
support (Ecclesiastes 9:10). But once a game is finished, we are to go
on with life and our responsibilities. I remember Mr. Armstrong
commenting once that he was enjoying watching a basketball game with
the L.A. Lakers, but once the game was over, he would return to his
duties. Some get so involved in the support of their team that they get
all upset and can’t sleep at night if their team has lost. They might
even get drunk to “forget their pain.” That, of course, is not
indicative of a healthy and Christian attitude.
Sports can be
good entertainment. They can contribute to our health and relaxation.
They can be exciting. But they must never take first place in our
lives. Recently, an overseas Worldwide Church of God congregation
reportedly changed the time for their worship services, so that the
members could watch a soccer game of their national team during the
Worldcup. This, of course, shows that the heart of these people is
really not where it should be. And even though watching sporting events
can be good and clean fun, that should be all. In this world, “the race
is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong… Nor favor to men
of skill; But time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
let’s enjoy sporting matches in a right way, while never getting our
priorities mixed up. And if we do it the right way, watching sports can
be entertaining, exciting and relaxing at the same time.