Why do we love sports? pt. 3 – “Mission”

“What are you going to do after high school?”

Spending quite a bit of time with high schoolers over the last five years, I am used to hearing this question asked of them. And I often ask it to them myself. “What’s next for you?” “What’s your plan?” “What do you want to do?”

Implicit within these questions is the correct assumption that these young people (and all people for that matter) are meant for mission. That is, we’re meant to give our lives to a cause. We were made to labor with our minds and strength for the sake of accomplishment.

Missional activity can take place in mathematics, chemistry, law, medicine, military service, commerce, design, and countless other ways. Humans apply our intellect and our force in order to calculate, formulate, heal, strategize, make deals, create, and any other number of verbs that signify actions toward accomplishing our mission. We were made for such creation-subduing work. Laziness is contrary to our deepest instincts.

And this is another important reason why I think humans love sports so much. Sports provide yet another opportunity for us to satisfy our urge for mission.  Sports teams give us a cause to commit to. Scouting, recruiting, player development, conditioning, practicing, strategizing, and finally the game itself all provide the requisite context for missional fulfillment. Strategies are executed; bodies are trained; minds are sharpened; difficulties are overcome; opponents are outmatched; ground is gained; buckets are made; runs are scored; mission accomplished.

This appetite for mission is precisely the way Scripture speaks about human nature. In the beginning, “Yahweh God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The man and woman’s mission was to “exercise dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). So our desire to do something, to join a cause, to carry out a mission is seared into our souls’ memory, and sports gives us the chance to do this.

Also, Jesus himself came on mission. He came to earth for a cause. Consider these texts:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

“Jesus said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.'” (Luke 4:43)

Jesus’ mission was to do the will of his Father (John 6:38), preaching the gospel and giving up his life for the sake of his people. Jesus had the most important mission in history, to redeem God’s fallen creation through his death and resurrection.

And before he ascended, Jesus sent his disciples on mission:

“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 2o:21)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

These texts are often referred to as “the Great Commission”. This is the Mission of missions. Whether we’re a sports coach, housewife, or scientist, taking dominion over our respective spheres of creation, Christians must also be engaged in the Great Commission.

So the next time you work for the advancement of your team’s mission, whether through cheering or playing, remember the Lord who designed us and calls us for missional impact. And recall that our urge to be on mission is most truly fulfilled when done for God’s glory and Christ’s commission to make disciples.

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