Can God Speak Sports?

Wendy LeBolt

On any given Sunday morning in my town, more folks are on the soccer fields than in the sanctuaries. Kids in brightly colored jerseys dash to and fro; and parents get in the action, shouting encouragement and instructions. Come a little closer to smell the half-time oranges and to see the sticky smiles after post-game popsicles. Should these young people be playing soccer on Sunday morning?

pre-game soccer cheer2Some folks wag a warning finger at the games, but not me. On Sundays, I am on the field as regularly as I am in church because not long ago I was one of those kids. For me, growing up was friends, fun, and a bit of competition on the weekend. My parents didn’t take me to church; they took me to the ball field. I learned the rules of the games, and I played them for all I was worth.

When I was introduced to The Ten Commandments, they sounded familiar, like the rules I’d learned on the playing field. Little did I know that God thought them up, chiseled them on stone, and handed them to Moses on a mountain in Israel.

If God wrote to Moses in Hebrew and I am reading the same words today in English, couldn’t God have been writing them to me in sports, even before I knew the language of faith? Could the playing field be my mountain of God? Just to see, I tried translating the commandments (Exodus 20:1–17) into sport-speak.

X.     Do not covet. Be a gracious loser and a more gracious winner.
IX.    Do not lie. Play by the rules; victory is hollow if you don’t.
VIII.  Do not steal. Credit for the win belongs to the whole team; don’t take the credit for yourself.
VII.   Do not commit adultery. Honor your team commitments—in and out of uniform.
VI.    Do not murder. The spirit is fragile. Keep it alive in yourself, your teammates, and your opponents. Help them up when they fall, and don’t run up the score.
V.    Honor your father and mother. Thanking your parents for coming to watch says “I love you” in a special way.
IV.   Remember the Sabbath. Bodies, like souls, need a day of rest.
III.   Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Honor God’s name with your play; it is by God’s grace that you are able to play.
II.    Do not idolize. Play for fun, exercise, and healthy competition, not just for the trophy.
I.     Have no other gods. It is, after all, only a game. Always give the glory to God.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Ten Commandments and the rules of the game have a lot of common ground. For me, it is holy ground, a sanctuary of sorts. I look with a smile at the fields filled with children on a Sunday. I work with those kids. I pray for them, for their health and safety, for the strength of their bodies and the protection of their spirits. Together, we speak sports.

God faithfully reminds me that knowing the rules of the game is not enough. God expects me to put them into play. Where else is the field so ripe for harvest than among those who are not in church on Sunday?



List The Ten Commandments. If you play a sport, translate them into the language of your sport. If you are more of a spectator, apply them to the rules of the game you watch.

Wendy LeBolt of Herndon, Virginia, has, for more than a decade, been reaching out to kids and their families through her business, Fit2Finish, LLC. Her profession, mission, and ministry find their perfect intersection on the field of play.

—from devozine (January/February 2014). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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