In response to a few recent posts, my friend Haddon raised the question, Should Christian athletes (or other well-known Christians) use their stature as a “platform” to speak about Christian faith?
I tend to think that they should not. I don’t have the final word on this, but I think this way for several reasons.
First, the character of God’s far-reaching salvation. The various arenas of our lives are to be inhabited as redeemed people in redeemed ways. To use them as “platforms” for something else is actually to diminish the value of God’s creation and his good gifts to us.
God created all things and called them good. He gave us vocations (teachers, gardeners, engineers, etc.) and roles to play in family and neighborhood (parent, husband, wife, daughter, son, neighbor, friend, etc.).
God also gave us a range of activities to enjoy on the Sabbath. Such activities were to be different in that they were to be seriously frivolous—fun activities that brought us joy and didn’t produce anything. We worked six days to produce—an important part of God’s creation economy. But on one day we were to explore, play, and have fun.
All these things and every arena of human experience have been perverted in various ways at the fall.
Among the many ways that Sabbath activities like sports and play have been corrupted is that sports are now used to establish one’s value to one’s parents, coaches, or peers. Sometimes international competitions, such as the Olympics, are pervertedwhen they were used to establish claims to national supremacy. Sports are perverted when they’re not received as good gifts—as goods in themselves—but instead are used for other purposes.
In redemption, God reclaims all arenas of life and frees creation from the corrupting grip of Sin and Death. He begins the process of reclaiming our lives, vocations, and relationships.
He also gives us back our Sabbath activities as good gifts. Receiving them as such is part of what it means to embody redeemed behavior.
So, taking Sabbath activities seriously as Christian people involves seriously enjoying sports and refusing to use sports for any other purpose.
When we establish our value and identities by “succeeding” in sports, there’s something wrong with that. And when we use sports for some other purpose—even as a “platform” for speaking about the gospel—there’s something wrong with that.
That’s why I said in the last few posts that a redeemed quarterback will be serious about having fun, being a good teammate, and eliciting from the other side the best possible performance. He receives the game as a gift and inhabits it as it was meant to be played according to God’s intentions.
Now, I don’t think that sports figures must remain silent about their Christian identity. But speech about Christian realities is, in an important sense, irrelevant to analyzing football games in post-game press conferences. In fact, to be a faithful Christian in such a situation is to really think through the game and talk through its dynamics faithfully.
Using those opportunities as platforms for something else diminishes the Sabbath-oriented character of the game. It is to mistreat a good gift from God, seeking to turn it into a non-Sabbath activity.
Explicit speech about Christian realities only because relevant if one must talk about why he’s so serious about having fun, being a good teammate, and eliciting excellence from his competitors.
I know that it stems from a kind of piety to want to exploit opportunities to commend Christian identity to the public, but good intentions don’t justify such an approach as biblically faithful.
More to come on this . . .