Sports Theology

Saturday was another hard day. Tennessee lost another game in the 4th quarter after leading by more than two scores. That tune seems to be competing with Rocky Top for Tennessee’s anthem these days.

I don’t handle losing well. I never have. My day will be worse after a loss than a win, almost regardless of the competition.

I’ve often wondered if I need to grow up. If my desire to win and my emotional response to losing are both just immature, worldly passions. I’ve even had people (and pastors) indicate this in their comments to me while I’m celebrating a win or recovering from a loss.

While I don’t believe these feelings should be allowed to linger or ever be justification for other sins, I do think that they are actually healthy if thought about rightly.

Let me explain.

I think sports are sacramental. They’re God’s way of reminding our hearts that we were designed for victory, not defeat. The thrill you experience when your team comes from behind, overcomes the odds, and comes out on top is a glimpse at what you were created for. You were created to win.

The story of the gospel is that we were down in the first half. We called the wrong plays, we turned the ball over, we missed tackles and gave up explosive plays. Then Jesus steps in for us, drives the ball down the field flawlessly, and orchestrates the comeback of all comebacks. It was truly a miracle. The crowd went crazy. The goal posts came down. And the celebration continues for all of eternity.

Is it sinful to base your happiness on whether or not Tennessee wins each Saturday? Of course.

But is it sinful to long for a win each Saturday? To celebrate when it happens? To feel defeated at a loss? Not at all. In fact, it’s one of the ways God points us back to our ultimate reality in Christ.

Praise God that in Christ, we win. It’s a come-from-behind-blowout. And the celebration never ends.

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