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Christians, Sports, and the Question of Priority

I was so glad to welcome my good friend C. J. Mahaney to the radio program yesterday as we talked about the meaning and significance of sports in the life of Christian believers. As always, the conversation was exciting, unpredictable, and fun. Beyond this, the conversation with C.J. touched on some of the big questions many of us are asking as the nation is now fixated on March Madness [see Wednesday's commentary].

C.J. has been writing about this question over at Together for the Gospel. Here are excerpts from his fine article, Fathers and Sons and March Madness, in which he talks about how he teaches his own son, Chad, about the meaning of sports and athletic endeavor:

Playing sports holds great potential for growth in godliness for our sons, but only if we as fathers lead our sons theologically and strategically. I fear that all too often our sons devote significant time to playing sports with little growth in godliness. Here is where the example and leadership of a father can make all the difference. It is our responsibility as fathers to teach and prepare our sons with biblical priorities prior to a game (or practice) and not to assume that we have fulfilled our fatherly responsibility simply by attending the game. And after the game, we should encourage and celebrate evidences of godliness and not primarily our sons’ athletic ability or achievements. Our priorities for our sons’ participation in sports must be theologically informed priorities rather than culturally celebrated priorities. Fathers who aren’t theologically informed are more impressed with athletic ability, statistics and final scores than they are biblical masculinity and godly character.

And:

My passion for my son as he plays sports is that he would please and glorify God. I want him to grow in godliness, not simply athletic ability. You see, Chad will never play professional sports. His participation in sports is temporary and meant to be preparatory. Like his father, he will inevitably grow old and only be able to walk for recreation or play golf poorly. But, by the grace of God, sports can help him grow in godly character and prepare him for manhood. His participation in sports can equip him to fulfill his calling as a man to humbly and courageously serve and lead in the home, church and culture. But for that to happen, a father must teach his son to discern and adopt biblical priorities and practices while playing sports.

At the same site, I argue that C.J.’s hatred of Duke basketball may hide a deeper theological agenda. The article is found here.