Thursday, September 16, 2010

Questionable Cultural Norms: Sports

It is necesarry from time to time for us to take a step back and question the common. In every culture traditions are developed that become commonly acceptable. It is tempting for Christians to see these cultural norms as morally acceptable for this reason. There are many areas in American culture that I believe Christians commonly compromise in.

One that I will raise a question regarding now is competetive athletics, both professional and recreational. I am not attempting to raise an accusation of any essential moral qualms with athletics, only the abuse of them. I will give two examples of common cultural behavior that I have observed and comment on them:

1. A father grows up playing baseball and hopes to pass that passion for the game to his son. The son grows up playing on little league teams and works his way to a college scholarship for baseball.

2. A husband has a devout following of his favorite football team. He finds personal enjoyment in watching games. It gives him rest among the stress of the week. He has formed friendship with other men, with whom he watches games with on a consistent basis.

The first thing I will point out is that neither one of these two things are wrong in themselves. However, both of these can become idolatry. If made idolatry, either situation can be argued by the Christian who is participating just as I stated before, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with either one of these.

There is something that we need to keep in the forefront of our minds however in order to be sure to keep from making sin out of recreation. This is a recognition of Christian virtues. I don't know a Christian who would disagree that the Bible teaches us to be humble and to do our best to keep peace with all people. Are these priorities carefully maintained in our ambitions to be great athletes or in our obsession with great athletes?

In the situation with the son who is raised to be a baseball player, is athletic self-confidence placed at a higher priority and talked about more than Christian humility? Does the father emphasize athletic success more than Christian virtues? If that child were uninterested in baseball and had a Christ-honoring proclivity toward another hobby, would the father be disappointed?

For the husband who has a passion for his favorite team, does he justifiy an obsession just because "that is what guys do?" Does he ignore his wife when the game is on? Does his family feel that they need to leave him alone when his team loses? If so, this is a far cry from Biblical masculinity. It is too often that I have seen a group of middle-aged, church-going men, when either playing or watching sports, act like the boys they were when they began their obsession with sports.

In our culture, we can be blinded to idolatry by normality. A Christian is to carry the name of Jesus Christ primarily. Is it possible that the wearing of athletic jersies in honor of an athlete, the boasting of that athlete among friends, and the heart and passion behind cheering for that athlete in a game situate can become human worship?

Again, I am not finding a problem with athletics. I just think that we should ask ourselves if our hobbies are in healthy perspective.

"When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." -1 Cor. 13:11

Missions in the Mundane

I have had many conversations like this following one with many of my Jesus-loving friends (and I have been on both ends of the conversation):

"How was [fill in country of choice]?"

"It was amazing! We went to [fill in place], we did [fill in life-changing experiences], we ate [exotic foods], and I love the people there so much! I don't even want to be here. I wish I could be back there."

I love having those conversations. It refreshes me to see my friends changed and excited from an experience that they had serving our Lord. I brings back memories of past mission trip experiences and adds excitement to my future ambition of serving Christ in the least-reached areas of the world.

The reaction most of us have to being home bothers me though. Why is it that the gospel was so exciting there, yet at home things seems "spiritually dead?" Each of us must search our hearts and ask ourselves if it is really the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is exciting to us or the adventure of going on a mission trip.

Please allow me a moment to clarify before I continue. I am pro-missions. In fact, I plan on devoting most of my life toward that very cause. I am also not saying that everybody who is or wants to be involved in missions fits a certain description or that I don't fall into the very trap that I am about to describe.

With that being said, this is what I have observed time and time again, both in my own experience and the experiences of my friends. S/he spends a year raising funds for a trip. S/he talks to his/her local church, friends, and family. Time is devoted in prayer to this trip. A month is spent in intimate community and evangelism in a foreign culture. It is the most exciting and fulfilling time of that person's life. S/he comes back from the trip and finds it difficult to share Christ at home.

We must never forget that our passion is not founded on missions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Missions is simply an outcome of a love for God in reaction to the His Gospel and only exists because the world is temporarily void of that passion. That means that the gospel is just as real and as penetrating in the mundane as it is in a foreign country. And if one can't glory in Christ and share His message of hope at home, how does that same person expect that to change overseas? If someone can't love a person who annoys her/him at home, how will she/he love someone who wants to take her/his life for preaching the gospel?

We must find our excitement and joy in Jesus Christ, who was killed for our transgressions and risen from the dead in order that we may have life in Him. That remains true in every walk of life (yes, even in America).