As football season takes the stage this fall, many of us will spend our time watching games, attending them or playing a sport ourselves (though perhaps not football!). Though we typically hear about sportsmanship when we’re participating in various sports, it applies to more than just the players. Whether you’re an audience member or a team player, good sportsmanship is a spiritual discipline.
Almost every sport has a penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Even in equestrian sports—which was my sport of choice in high school and college—a lack of sportsmanship was noticed and penalized. So what makes a good “sportsman”? It’s interesting that the character of sportsmanship echoes the fruits of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5. Every Christian should be a good sportsman, and sportsmanship honors Christ. Here’s how.
1. Good sportsmanship takes self-control.
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28)
A good sportswoman controls her temper. She doesn’t express everything she is feeling in the moment, no matter how justified it seems. Rather than “lose it” on the field or in the locker room, the Christian sportswomen allows God to be her justifier and defense.
It might seem like sports don’t matter in the big picture of faith. Certainly, games themselves have little eternal consequence. But our attitudes on the field, court or arena DO matter, and how well we control ourselves reveals our commitment to Christ.
2. Sportsmanship reflects a selfless heart.
When we’re willing to sacrifice being right in order to honor God, we’re choosing selflessness. Good sportswomen are selfless women. They see past offense to the purpose of it all: to glorify God through their athletic ability and witness for Christ in their attitude.
This does not go unnoticed. Though it may take teammates, coaches and friends to recognize the honor of good sportsmanship, God notices every time you choose selflessness for His name’s sake.
3. Sportsmanship requires a long-term perspective.
In order to be gracious toward opposition, we all need an eternal perspective: We need to remember that this is not all there is to life. For those who don’t believe in eternity, this life is all there is. The wins of this world bear much more weight for those without a spiritual perspective.
For those of us who live for Christ, sports are simply another way to glorify God and honor Him with our time on earth. While wins are gratifying, earthly wins and losses can both be borne with grace in light of eternity.
Good sportsmanship honors Christ because good attitudes honor Christ. You can reflect the love of God through sports in more ways than you might imagine.
How do you reflect Christ as an athlete?