One Exchange: Christians Worshiping At Wrong Altar

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. ~ Romans 1:25

I need to offer a disclaimer from the start: I am not a sports fan. At least, I do not follow any teams and I never watch games on television. If I do, it is because I am with friends who are watching and I’m enjoying being with them. I’m not against sports, and I don’t begrudge sports fans their joy. In fact, I enjoy going to live sports events. I’m not a sports hater and not a sports lover.

One might understand from that perspective how atrocious it is that athletics, and certain gifted athletes, are offered praise and worship from Christians.

Already I can hear the objections, but the evidence is overwhelming. Many American Christians worship sports with their whole hearts.

*Money is spent in enormous sums for tickets, clothing, travel, and print media.

*Tears are shed when favorite teams / athletes suffer losses.

*Shouting and jumping frequently expresses joy and elation at victory.

*Nothing gets in the way of viewing sporting events either televised or live. Not family events. Not worship with the church. Not anything.

*The training for this devotion begins in childhood and continues through the adolescent years. It is ingrained more deeply than any other concept.

Yes, I meant to say ‘praise and worship’. Contrast the energy of expressing your love and devotion and excitement for a sports team / athlete to the involvement of the heart in worshiping God. If you’re falling asleep while praising God but biting your nails to the nub in a last minute game saving play, then I’d say your heart is in the wrong place. There might be some religious activity, but God has always been more interested in heart than deeds.

Jonathan Zimmerman asks a legitimate question when he asks, “LeBron James: Where’s the outrage about his salary?” Indeed. But that will not matter to many sports fans … if it even makes an appearance in their conversations. LeBron is just the latest in a long line of overpaid athletes who really seem to believe that they are as great as their press says they are.

Yes, I know that some athletes go to great lengths to use their wealth and influence to do great things. I really admire that, because they don’t have to. I also have read the headlines of the athletes who admit to using drugs to enhance their performance (can’t live up to the image they even have of themselves), are arrested in drunken episodes, and who trade in their wives on a new model. People of all income levels and from every social strata experience substance abuse, family issues, and all other problems of life. Why do athletes who do well get a free pass in the hearts of American Christians?

Notice I’m addressing American Christians. None of this will probably make sense to anyone else. Does it make sense to our sports fans?

This is just one exchange … one way in which God is supplanted in our hearts and lives … and there are many others. But today I’m picking on the American Christian sports fan. Nothing wrong with being a sports fan that I can see. I know some sports fans who give generously of time, money, and effort to their church. I know some who demonstrate in their own lives that they have Christ at the first place. Can I say that those are the exceptions?

Check out David Gray’s article “Will LeBron James Win?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. If I’m missing the mark some way, feel free to let me know.

Thanks for reading,


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