I’ve been on FB and Twitter for some time. One thing I noticed, even among Christians, is the obsession with sports, fashions, food. And then there’s the narcissism of stupid selfies. Very clearly, 90% of Christians are strongly into idolatry. I am confining myself to the subject of Sports Idolatry. I am not going to mince words. John the Apostle in the last words of his famous First Epistle warned: “My little children, beware of idolatry!” 1 John 5.21.
What shocked me right at the beginning of my entry into social networking sites was the fact that a large number of pastors and preachers seem to be obsessed with Sports: either American football, or basketball, or ice-hockey, or golf, and now the European Football Championship of 2016 being played in France. What is disturbing is the number of tweets and posts that keep appearing from so-called evangelical Christians talking about Le Bron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, etc; and now the craze for Euro Football. Argentina is mourning because Lionel Messi has announced his retirement at the age of 29. England is mourning because of its exit from the Euro Championship (at the hands of a tiny nation called Iceland). It seems that these ‘exits’ are more cause for mourning than all the illicit and open sex scandals perpetrated by movie stars, sports stars and fashion stars put together.
When I first got on to FB, I found pastors talking about going out and having a game of golf on Sunday. Now I see a grandmother who calls herself a Blessed W. tweeting a flurry of pics on Euro 2106; this is more exciting to her than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It’s so very disappointing. If we don’t have any passion for Christ we have no business to call ourselves Christians. We are making a shame and a mockery of the Lord Jesus Christ with our obsession with Sports. As Leonard Ravenhill stated long ago, America is ruled by King Sports and Queen Entertainment. I find the most popular preachers in America to be wimpy, shallow, and unspiritual – because almost every one of them worships the deadly idol of Sports in the secret chamber of his heart.
Why this sports mania in contemporary society? The average citizen (including 90% of Christians) spends many hours each week watching professional sports on TV. Newspapers have whole sheets devoted to the sports news.Conversations during coffee and tea breaks are dominated by sports talk. The heroes of today are sports personalities. This is clearly a symptom of the general sickness in modern society; people are trying to escape from their empty and purposeless lives of boredom and inertia – escaping into what they see as the ‘dreamworld’ of Sports. (They overlook the greed, the dishonesty, the pressure on children, the mass hysteria, the hooliganism, etc. I said ‘pressure on children’; children become tools of their parents’ frustrated ambitions; they are forced to join junior sports leagues to compete and aim for #1, instead of innocently enjoying simple games. Eventually they become teenagers who take performance-enhancing supplements to gain a competitive edge, and ruin their lives.)
Idolatry is anything that takes the place of God; anything that comes between you and God; it can be food, fashion, selfies and sport. It need not be an image or a figurine. The worst idolatry is idolatry in the heart. American Christians stand condemned in this respect, along with most of the Western World. This is not to say that Christians in other parts of the world are not affected by Sports Idolatry. Australia, for example, is a hedonistic society, where Sports is the chief god. Asia, Africa, South America are not far behind. I have rarely seen Christians who truly and whole-heartedly love Christ.
Why should our lives revolve around these sports gladiators? Why have we put them on a pedestal? Why do we worship them as gods? This reminds me of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The historian Gibbon tells us that as Rome declined, sports (gladiator contests) became more exciting and brutal. I remember watching the Netherlands playing at the last World Cup; as a young man I admired the Dutch team way back in the 1970s; but in the last World Cup I found Arjen Robben to be a ‘diving cheat’. It was so apparent, and the referees just looked the other way. I wonder if the whole Sports ‘thing’ is just another scam. Poor Muhammad Ali, boxing hero, was knocked out by Parkinson’s disease! So what’s the point of it all?
Dear friend, don’t get upset with me, if I ask you a few questions:
1. How does your passion for your favourite team compare with your passion for the gospel of Christ?
2. Is it easier for you to memorize batting averages than to memorize a few verses of Scripture?
3. Look at yourself at a sporting event and look at yourself at church. Where do you get your excitement?
4. How much time do you spend watching sports and how much time do you spend reading the Bible?
5. Do you pray more for your favourite sports team than you pray for others?
“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee idolatry,” 1 Cor 10.14. “The works of the flesh are manifest, which are….idolatry,” Gal 5.19, 20. “And they served their idols, which were a snare to them,” Psalm 106.35, 36. “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts…Everyone…who sets up idols in his heart…I the LORD will answer him according to the multitude of his idols…because they are estranged from Me by their idols”, Ezekiel 14.4,5. “Therefore, says the Lord GOD, Repent, turn away from your idols…and from all your abominations!” Ezek 14.6.
I know my Bible. I know God’s Word. I know the Lord. If you are spending much time over Sports (and less time with God!), you are committing IDOLATRY. Sports Idolatry is an abomination, hateful to God, which will certainly bring a curse upon the idolater. Let the reader be warned.