I would like to make a few remarks in regard to the article on “competitive sports” in the February issue of Beacon Lights. There are many statements therein with which I fully agree. Like, “there is a strong correlation between the development of our physical and mental facilities. A strong body does not necessarily produce a strong mind (John Calvin had a weak and sickly body; he suffered from malaria fever, rheumatism, gout and consumption, while he probably dies of gravel, but he possessed a mastermind). It is imperative that we do not forsake our spiritual life for our physical well-being. There is an increasing need for spiritual enlightening”. Let these quotations by enough proof that I do not throw the writer’s essay entirely away.
Physical education can be a boon to a carpenter or anybody that does some kind of construction work, for it steadies his nerves and enables him to keep better balanced, whether he climbs a roof or stands on an eight inch wall, or walks on a six inch beam. It can also be of benefit to a machine operator, chauffeur or the like, to have learned to keep presence of mind, so that in case of emergency he may know how to act quickly. I hope that it is clear to all who read this, that I have nothing against physical instruction any more than I have against mental or spiritual instruction. But I don’t like the idea of competition in any of these fields nor in any other activity in our lives.
Competition provides us with a unique stimulus to perform to our very best according to Mr. Bykerk. Now I ask the question, “Is this a good reason for us to do our best?” It may be alright according to the opinion of most people and our entire educational system may be based upon it, yet this doesn’t prove anything to me. We hear many voices now-a-days that say “our education is a force”. We also have an antitrust law in our land.
Millions of people may be partaking in sports and undermined millions may be spectators, but where if proof that society has received benefit of all this? Juvenile delinquency is alarmingly increasing and asylums are overcrowded, while we are clamoring for more recreation centers. What we need is not competition, but a sense of duty. And our goal must be our neighbor’s well-being and the glory of God. I Cor. 10:31.
Samuel Johnson who was a very brilliant student himself wrote: “By exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, you lay the foundation for lasting mischief, you make brothers and sisters hate each other!” But now let us go to the Bible for some light. In Gal. 5:19-20 we read: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies”. Emulate means, try to equal or excel, to rival. Nowhere is Scripture find we any admonition or exhortation to rival. In school, children must be taught to do their task as unto the Lord, and that principle must be practiced always through our whole life. Eph. 6 Then it matters not whether the participant has one or five talents, he will hear of the Lord “Well done”. We can play a simple game with the object to entertain each other, and be relieved of a certain strain on our mind, we follow the rule of the game, but winning is not our object. Then there is no contest but the purpose is reached just the same. And so we can play all games not against, but with one another and give as many as like to play a chance to partake; also shifting players so everybody gets exercise. Then we don’t go outside the border of our churches no more than we take in any members in our church societies who do not belong to our churches. We can then open and close our games with prayer, and sing “Oh! How love I Thy law, it is my meditation all the day”, just like our classes in school and catechism. Doing this we don’t have to be afraid that we shall forsake our spiritual life for the well-being of our physical, and may hope for the Lord’s blessing upon our doings.
But if we partake in competitive sports, we get an altogether different sight. Then some may have their name and picture appear on the sports page. We see cheer leaders who lead the crowd in offering incense of praise to their idols instead of their Maker. Among the cheerers we behold a minister hollering at the top of his voice, stamping his feet and wildly throwing his hands in the air, while angels weep and demons laugh. How much more fitting it would be for a minister to lament when he beholds such a display of enthusiasm in contrast to the little effort that is otherwise put forth to strengthen the inner man. We see the forebodings of our doom. First Church, which is figured as having 192 families, cannot have a Choral Society anymore, nor can we have a Radio Choir in our neighboring churches combined. Singspirations are kept from dying by the attendance of older people, and must be held on Sunday nights like most other programs, if we desire an audience.
We hear much complaining about poor attendance and preparation for our Society meetings – to preach, do all things for the glory of God, and not to practice it, means nothing. Therefore years ago, the church did not allow her members to partake in competitive sports.
How the good gold tarnished!
Let us take to heart Gal. 5:19-20 and let us not be desirous of vain glory, envying one another, but by love, serve one another.
Originally Published in:
Vol 19 No 3 April 1959