On the Lord’s Team! Sports as an image of the Christian Life

St. Paul used the image of an athlete to describe the Christian life in Several places. Consider this one:

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. ( 1 Cor. 9:25-27)

Clearly there are many virtues necessary to the athlete that are also of great necessity to the Christian:

  • Discipline – The athlete must carefully and persistently train the body. Without a clear and repetitive discipline, the sport will not be mastered, and neither will the body have proper stamina, strength and coordination. Athletes train every day and work to perfect their mastery of the sport. So too must Christians undertake a clear discipline, and persistently train in the ways of faith through prayer, scripture, sacraments, moral virtue and self mastery. The Christian must practice every day.
  • Persistence – The Athlete must follow discipline all the time, not just occasionally. To fail in persistent training not only jeopardizes good performance, but it risks injury. So too for the Christian. We cannot expect much progress with an on-again, off-again regimen. Without a persistent good habit of prayer, scripture, sacraments and practicing of moral virtue the Christian not only stunts progress but also risks injury (sin).
  • Rules – Every sport has rules that must be accepted and followed. The athlete is not free to reinvent the game. They must play by the rules or risk exclusion and disqualification. S0 too the Christians must play by the rules set by God. If we are going to be on the winning team and secure the victory, we have to abide by the rules. To refuse this, is to risk being disqualified. We are not free to reinvent Christianity as so many try to do today. There is only one playing field and one game. Follow the rules or risk being ejected.
  • Alert for Injury – A good athlete listens carefully to his or her body and any signs of injury. If injury is detected they see the team doctor quickly and take measures to heal as quickly as possible. Further they avoid injury by learning proper form, stretching etc. So too for the Christian. We must monitor ourselves for injury and upon discovery of even minor injury, we should consult our team physician, the priest, and get on the mend quickly. Further we should avoid injury by learning proper Christian form (moral life) and avoiding what ever leads us to sin (a kind of stretching to avoid moral injury).
  • Teamwork – Many sports involve learning to work together for the goal. Athletes cannot merely seek glory for themselves, they must have the good of the whole team in mind. They must learn to work with others toward the common good and overcome any idiosyncrasies or selfishness that hinders the common goal. So too Christians must strive to overcome petty and selfish egotism and work for the common good, learning to appreciate the gifts of others. The team is stronger than the individual alone. Life is about more then just me. When others are glorified, so am I, if I am on the same winning team.

Well, you get the point. Why not add a few of your own thoughts on how sports is a good analogy for the Christian life?

8 Replies to “On the Lord’s Team! Sports as an image of the Christian Life”

  1. Hmm, sounds like much shared by Ignatius of Antioch in his epistle to Polycarp (Bishops, Saints, and Martyrs both), especially this exhortation:

    ‘It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us.’

    Thanks Monsignor for the helpful spiritual ‘gut check’ from St Paul’s exhortation, too. The disciplines required of discipleship, perhaps?

  2. The Draft Pick. Sometimes a team needs new blood. New players with fresh ideas and expertise. This keeps the team from being on Auto Pilot. There are times when the owner decides the team needs a new coach. Many teams have starters and backup players, but how many of us know of a backup player who became a star. Never forgeggt. t.eam members t.here’s always a backup player eager to beome a st.ar. God is watching!!

  3. Epistle 198
    My some ideas of “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope talked exactly about Lord’s Team and sports as an image of the Christian life.
    I quite agree with Msgr. Charles Pope on the homily.
    Secondly, now permit me to add some problems hereafter:
    What is Lord’s Team?
    In New Testament, Lord’s Team is the twelve, twelve disciples of Lord Jesus.
    In Matthew 10: 2-4, the names of the twelve apostles are these: Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Lord.
    In team of twelve, there is 3 well-known disciples are: First, Simon (or Peter) disowned Lord three times; second, Thomas called Doubting Thomas; third, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Lord.
    Thus, Lord’s Team isn’t a perfect team. Problem is that when disciples noticed their mistakes, they repented.
    Similarly, the Church also doesn’t include perfect people. They can make a mistake. But problem is that they ought to repent.
    Furthermore, a football team, for instance, also isn’t a perfect team. One or two of them can become betrayers by selling his team in order to “eat” money.
    But if they repent, we should forgive them, but is not to reject them.
    Gist of the homily wants to say so./.

  4. Here’s one: A coach (spiritual director). A good coach should not only know the sport, but should know how to develop the individual talents of each player.

  5. One last thoght: Retirement from the game. Many players retire from the game for many reasons. Sport injuries, age, spending time with family and some have even been asked to leave. Whatever the reason no one would deny that these players still love the game. You can find them on Sundays watching the game. Cheering their team on. We call them the ‘SAINTS’

  6. I think it’s far past time to accept that sports has always been something far beyond virtuous. Why do we continue to bow at this altar. Sports is viewed as an end by most anyone who plays and watches the games. The means to that end destroys there souls with pride, greed, lust etc. The virtues presented above are really a stretch, a search for a tiny silver lining in a super cell thunderstorm. For those who are involved in coaching, marketing, playing etc as a career at any level, you need to look at the destruction left in your wake. For those who are “fans”, you need to quit lying, cheating and stealing just to watch the game. The devil is quite pleased with what he has done in creating our blind sports lust.

      1. Sadly, also some kids leagues and school & college sports, too. Sports have become an all-consuming passion to many, and that’s one of the reasons why church pews can be so sparsely populated. The devil continues to laugh.

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