‘men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets… the streets will be filled with boys and girls playing…’
Sport arouses passion and commitment like few other things in life. Banners unfurled at some football grounds by devoted supporters proclaim the club as being ‘their religion’. High profile competitors in many sports are now much more open about their faith. It is common to see players running onto a football pitch making the sign of cross. Others will celebrate goals by revealing t-shirts with Christian messages. The Bible describes play as one of the good things of life, like eating and sleeping. According to Christianity, people who believe in Jesus Christ and follow his teaching will enjoy an eternal relationship with God and will be with him in heaven after they die. The Bible doesn’t describe exactly what heaven will be like, but there are clues. For example, the Bible book, Zechariah, says ‘men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets… the streets will be filled with boys and girls playing…’ So heaven’s streets will be places of fun and relaxation. Christians believe that God has made this world and heaven for humanity to enjoy and take care of. There is rarely conflict between enjoying sport and following the Christian faith. One example where an issue arose was at the 1924 Olympic Games where the devout Christian runner, Eric Liddell, refused to compete in a heat for the 100 metres because it was being staged on a Sunday. Over the centuries, it has been traditional for Christians to set aside Sunday as the ‘Sabbath’ - a day for rest and worshipping God.
Paul urged Christian leaders to stay physically fit but to be even fitter spiritually.
When Jesus Christ lived, 2,000 years ago, his homeland was occupied by the Romans. Games were a significant part of their culture. Paul, one of the leaders of the early Church, acknowledged the popularity of these games by referring to them in his letters, which form much of the New Testament of the Bible. He urged Christian leaders to stay physically fit but to be even fitter spiritually. He wrote of following Jesus being like getting ready for a sport event and of the Christian life being like running a race where there is an amazing and everlasting prize for every athlete. He urged Christians to ‘run with perseverance’ and to spur each other on.
The Christian origin of professional clubs
Many famous sports clubs have Christian roots. The Premier League football clubs Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham and Southampton began as church teams in the 19th century. They were started by Christians who believed that sport would benefit working men in deprived areas and help develop positive characteristics such as teamwork, self-reliance and friendship. Many churches have sports clubs associated with them ranging from aerobics and badminton to football and gaming.