Our Second Religion

Sporting activities have been called the “second religion of America.” Whether it is the fast-break, jump shooting, and 3-point shots, or the 55-yard pass for the winning touchdown on the last play of the game, we love sports. It can be ice hockey or air hockey, but it still has its appeal. Hunting moose, elk, deer, quail, doves, and varmints (the four-legged kind) attracts a following. Fishing holes are sometimes marked by nearly as many fishers as fish. They can be the “boys of summer” that win it in the last inning or the sprinter who wins by a nose, but it makes no difference. Football, fishing, baseball, hunting, basketball, track — we love it all.

But, may we call a “time out” to consider a fairly common problem in light of the Bible? Sporting activities are not the second religion of some — collective sporting activities are the first religion to some. Some view sports as of the utmost value and concern in life. Sadly, even some professing to be children of the heavenly Father implicitly tell the God of heaven to “take a number (other than one) and we’ll be right with you after the last quarter.” Sports can be wholesome and good for all who participate or spectate, but Christians are careful to keep such activities in their proper place. The Bible still teaches, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33), and “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

One brother, speaking to a preacher’s workshop, justified his son missing Wednesday evening services to play ball by asking the teen if he would be willing, come next week, to attend both the regular Wednesday evening services and an area Gospel meeting on Thursday night. Of course, if it is right for a Christian to miss worship assemblies and Bible class to participate in sports, does it not follow that all the brethren can miss the assemblies and classes to watch the ball game or other sporting activities? And, if we can “make up” forsaken assemblies like a student makes up a missed test, then surely we can justify shutting down the church building during the hottest part of the summer and do “make up” worship every night for a few weeks this Autumn.

Bible classes and worship assemblies in some places take a tremendous nose dive in attendance because some brethren worship at the idol of sporting activities. We cannot help but wonder though how important our sporting achievements will seem when we stand before God in judgment. Suddenly the “one that got away” will be insignificant and the state championship trophy will provide as much comfort as a crash helmet to a kamikaze pilot.

I like sporting activities. I have played organized sports. I try to instruct my children in sports. But when the church is working, meeting in assemblies, or studying in Bible classes, my family needs to be present, promoting the work, exhorting the brethren, and receiving exhortation: “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (I Timothy 4:8).

Lynn Parker