Mixing God, sports in the conversation

Most sportswriters are smarter than to broach the subject of how God views sports. Truth be told, most pastors, theologians and religious leaders know better than to mix the two.

However, I?m not that smart, which is why I will share some thoughts on this controversial topic. It?s controversial because those who don?t believe in God don?t have any use for bringing God into the conversation. For religious people, it?s heresy if the opinions expressed by said columnist differ from their own perspective.

Most of you may have heard the phrase, ?They don?t have a prayer,? referring to the chances of an underdog against the overwhelming favorite.

Years ago, there was a popular saying, ?Prayer changes things.? Responses to that saying range from ?I agree,? to ?Yes, but not necessarily with the outcome of a sporting event,? to ?I don?t believe in prayer.?

Dallas fans used to say there was a hole in their stadium roof so God could watch the Cowboys play football. What kind of God needs a hole in a roof in order to see a game?

If there are Christian student-athletes playing football at Tabor College and Bethel College, does God care who wins? Does God favor the team with the most Chris?tians?

Anyway, you get the point. Religion and any topic creates controversy, disagreement and head-scratching observations.

There was an interesting verbal exchange earlier this season, following the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks football game.

After Green Bay defeated the Seahawks 27-17, Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, ?God was a Packers fan tonight.?

The comment was taken as a subtle jab at Wilson, who said after the NFC title game that God set up the Seahawks? 28-22 overtime win. ?That?s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,? Wilson said.

A day after the title game, Rodgers saw it differently than Wilson: ?I don?t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome.?

In any case, Wilson responded to Rodgers? comment after the Packers? recent win: ?I think that in terms of that comment and all that, everybody has the right to their own opinion. I know for me, I?m just grateful that God has given me the opportunity to play the great game of football. I?m so grateful.?

And Wilson may have snuck in a subtle jab at Rodgers, when he said, ?I know one of the things my parents always taught me was just to continue to remain humble in your victories and your losses. I think that?s just the thing that I?m grateful for, just be able to play the game of football. I love it. Like I said, everybody is entitled to their own opinion.?

The Bible doesn?t specifically address participation in sports, although the subject isn?t ignored.

A number of Bible verses address athletic competition. In 2 Timothy 2:5, the Apostle Paul writes, ?An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.?

In 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, the Apostle Paul said, ?Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.?

In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul writes, ?I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.?

The Bible may not talk about your favorite sport. It does, however, list some general sports that were played for many, many years?running and fighting, for example

The Bible also speaks of general principles that athletes of the time and even our time need to have, such as self-control and discipline.

The Bible uses athletic competition to showcase a spiritual truth.

There?s a statement on the website hearitfirst.com that states: ?Most importantly, though, the Bible only talks about sports as a way to communicate the gospel to people.?

There?s much more I could say on this topic, but space limitations require that I stop for now. Other?wise, this column doesn?t have a prayer of making it into print.

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein?sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. He can be reached at Joe.Klein?sasser@wichita.edu.