Enjoying the good gift of sports

by Barnabas Piper

Posted on Friday, August 15, 2014, at 10:05 am

I write about sports. A lot. To write about any subject regularly demands a fair amount of thought. I’ve been asked more than once whether it’s worth it to put so much thought into games. Am I investing energy and intellect in something trite? To many people sports is pure entertainment, a distraction. To others it’s a vacuous pastime, empty of meaning, at best an amoral vice of sorts. One could say the same thing about movies, television, or music—really any entertainment. So why is it worth it to invest my mind and time in sports?

Sports are given to us by God for enjoyment and to show us aspects of Himself, of human nature, of creation, of interaction and competition. Are they fun? No question. Are they a wonderful way to relax and take our minds off of heavier matters? Absolutely. But they are more than mere distraction, and it is always good to engage our minds.

We should always be asking questions. What is being reflected in this medium? Is there a message being expressed? What is it? Why is this valuable? If we stop asking such questions we open ourselves up to being influenced unwittingly. Our minds and hearts are always absorbing—always. Unless we maintain some level of awareness how do we know what we are soaking up?

But you might say, “Sports are supposed to be fun. All that analysis takes all the fun out of it.” Only if you overdo it. What I mean by “thinking” and having an “active mind” isn’t taking notes and analyzing. It’s more like setting up an alarm system: It doesn’t really do anything unless some motion or invasion sets it off. Our alarms should go off when something amazing happens, when controversy happens, when some falsehood is expressed or character exhibited.

Thinking actively about sports (or other forms of other entertainment) doesn’t take away from their enjoyment—it increases it! It allows you to see more: more beauty, more inspiration, more stories, more worldview, more truth, more lies. Instead of undermining appreciation for sports, an active mind bolsters it.

Finally, being a thinker keeps life in balance. It is so easy to get sucked into the vortex of competition, to live and die on every success (or lack thereof) by our favorite teams or players. To engage our minds, to look for truth, is to connect sports to the rest of life. And that is healthy. When sports is connected to God, to family, to work, to living it becomes a wonderful accent to life instead of a dictating force.

To any sports fan I would say, yes, it’s absolutely worth thinking about these games. Don’t let them just happen to you. Don’t be mindless or passive. In the process you will see things you never saw, appreciate things you never could, and actually be able to enjoy the good gift of sports in a better way.  

Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.

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