According to the FIFA organizers, the just concluded FIFA World Cup 2018 had a 98-percent attendance rate in all the games. They also estimated that half a million fans visited fan zones during match days, and there were 160 million fans who actively followed the tournament on live television or live streaming thereby making it the largest sports event in the world. On this week were also the Wimbledon Open Tennis Finals, and also the return of Manny Pacquiao to boxing relevance.
Did the Bible use sports metaphors? In the Bible we can see three sports events that were alluded into by the writers: wrestling, running, boxing. Genesis 32:24 used the term “wrestling” when explaining what happened to Jacob and God. Paul used phrases like “run to win” “discipline your body like an athlete” “boxer beating the air” or “shadowboxing” in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 to challenge the Christians to be disciplined and to aim with a purpose in their lives.
What then can learn from the Biblical writers when they used sports metaphors?
First, God can use anything around us to teach us lessons.
Most probably Paul watched the Isthmian Games while he was in Corinth. It was similar to our modern day Olympics dating back to the sixth century B.C. They included several different games like races, boxing, wrestling and some field events. While watching, Paul saw some valuable lessons that he can use to illustrate important points to Christians in Corinth. This means that for us who like sports, let us watch it with a perspective to learn lessons that we can use in our lives.
Second, a Christian is challenged to enjoy life, and that includes watching sports events.
Paul was not just in the games to learn valuable lessons or illustrations that he can use, but he was there, most possibly, to enjoy watching the games and to fellowship with fellow believers. Some people nowadays would label Christians as “boring” or “killjoy” because they just pray, read their Bible and go to church. This is a stereotype that we must break. Christians are fun-loving, passionate and definitely not boring.
By using sports metaphors, the Bible is teaching us about discipline, training, and focus –qualities that athletes use to excel in their chosen events. Let us apply these qualities in our spiritual life.
May God bless us all!
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
Office of Communications
Central Philippine University