"Nothing matters but the kingdom, but because of the kingdom everything matters."—Gordon Spykman
The gospel and a degraded view of sports
My growing-up years were consumed with sports, especially while I was in secondary school. Without exaggeration, sports assumed an idolatrous role in my life. I was not living as a follower of Christ; I served the god of sports. One of my goals in secondary school was to be the best athlete in the school—and that goal was accomplished, I suppose. I enjoyed success in at least five different sports, and during my senior year, I was chosen as my school's athlete of the year. But that accomplishment also set into motion something else that would eventually take my life in a different direction: I began to see the vanity of it all.
Seeing my picture hanging in the halls of my school, the honour accorded to the athlete of the year, made me realise that in ten years, students would probably be mocking my haircut—shoulder-length hair, in keeping with the times!—in the same way we ridiculed the crewcuts of the early 1960s. The recognition and honour I received from athletic success would not last; it was here today, gone tomorrow. As I stood at the threshold of the rest of my life, I began to ask, "What now?" Would my next accomplishment prove to be as fleeting and short-lived as success in athletics?
Several years later I began to follow Christ, and my life changed. But the gospel which I embraced was a narrow, "world-negating" gospel concerned primarily, if not exclusively, with a new relationship to God. Sports and competition had little place for the committed follower of Jesus Christ, in my understanding. Sacred activities such as prayer, worship, and evangelism were what really mattered. All other activities were secular—inferior, wasteful, and frivolous. I succumbed to what Shirl Hoffman calls a "degraded view of sport", an attitude expressed in an article in an evangelical magazine in the early 1970s: "Among the various things we can relax with, athletics are low on the scale of demonstrable religious significance."