|HERE ARE A lot of tough questions in life. Questions like: Should I watch this TV show? How do I confront a sibling or friend caught in sin? How do I glorify God in my job?|
There are tough questions in sports, too, many of them also weighted with moral implications. How do I pursue winning without becoming obsessed with it? How should I react when an opposing player verbally or physically attacks me? Should I play on Sundays?
One likes to think that sports provides an escape from moral dilemmas, but that's not the case. If you think it is, you've obviously never been tempted to cheat. Truth is, sports can test our integrity as much as anything; it can reveal the quality of one's moral fiber.
More questions the athlete must face: Should I report a teammate I see taking steroids or some other illegal substance? Should I demand more money for my next contract, even though it's already ridiculously high? When do I stop signing autographs?
The ones who think the answers to these questions are easy either haven't thought through the issues, or they've no idea how many of these questions athletes face and how often. Not being much of an athlete anymore myself -- and never having played at a high level -- I don't know any more than you, but I suspect these questions surface on a daily basis. I also suspect they are questions many athletes struggle greatly with.
I suppose I could offer some answers to these questions; this is certainly the forum for such pondering. I simply feel inadequate (not a becoming quality for a columnist, eh?). This is why we have the Bible, which possesses more wisdom than all mankind from Adam to now.
But even with Scripture as our guide, it can be hard to reconcile God's instructions. We are told to be good stewards of our gifts (I Peter 4:10-11), which as far as athletes are concerned means maximizing their talents to His glory. But then, we are also told that a greater prize should be our goal, well above the "perishable wreath" athletes seek after (I Cor. 9:25).
Jesus instructs us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us (Matt. 5:39), but the testosterone-drenched atmosphere of a sporting event is a setting where not retaliating is usually frowned upon, and some Christians equate standing up for themselves with standing up for Jesus.
God rested on the seventh day, and we are instructed to observe it and keep it holy (Deut. 5:12). But then, Jesus is "lord of the Sabbath" (Matt. 12:8), and to say we shouldn't play a little football on Sunday smacks of Pharisaical legalism. That subject is a whole other column in itself.
As I said, the answers to these questions aren't easy. That doesn't mean there are no definite answers, it just means one must study and think deeply to reach an understanding of how God wants a person to handle certain situations. That's how we should all approach daily life and its moral complexities. Stay in God's Word, and the answers will come.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
More columns by Brad Locke