The eternal purpose of sports

The following account is based on potentially true-ish events that could possibly take place thousands of years after the inauguration of the New Earth? Give or take a few key details? Maybe?

I just realized my whole body is tense and I haven't taken a breath in several seconds. I can't help it. This moment is too intense to do anything else.

Avigail Mizrah is finally facing off against Bazilio Odoki! Avigail and Bazilio... on the same planet... in the same arena... at the same time!! You can't blame me right?!

We've only been waiting a few thousand years for this. But everyone's been following both of these players ever since they became champions on each of their own planets.

It's only the 67th round, but I can already see Avigail adjusting her stance to counter Bazilio's strong left-handed throws from the 15 point line.

Avigail's my favorite. Everyone's rooting for Bazilio because he's the underdog in the match, but I've always been too much of a non-conformist to go with the obvious gospel-parallelism in rooting for the underdog. I like to find the gospel in the less obvious victories. That's more fun.

Wait! What?!! You've gotta be kidding me! No way!!!

Oh man! Avigail just did the impossible! She just did a 5-0 swing against his yet undefeated curved hurl, intercepting the ball with perfect timing, and jumping 77 points ahead of him! Can you believe that?! That was so cool!

What will sports be like in the new earth? Will we play them? How will unlimited time, no pain, and perfect love for God and each other change the way we compete?

What is the essence of sports and why did God create them or ordain that they exist?

I've been thinking about these questions lately as I get way too into my son's flag football games. There's so much I love about flag football. The strategy, the soldier-like training, the one-for-all and all-for-one mentality (and especially the lack of major injuries).

There has got to be more to sports than just suburban escapism from comfortably boring lives. Why are they so addictive to watch?

As I thought about this, I came up with my own definition of sports: a manufactured physical conflict for the purpose of testing how well you can come out on the other side, usually compared to other participants.

That definition helps me use Gospel Logic™ to come up with possible answers to the questions above.

You play sports to find out who you are, what you're made of.

It's a picture of trials. Trials are one of God's favorite ways to make us humble, gentle, patient, and loving like him.

But it goes beyond that. Sports are a reflection of the cosmic battle of good vs. evil, God vs. Satan, false gospels vs. the true Gospel.

God shows us what He is made of through this cosmic struggle. He shows us his great might in how much power he has over Satan.

Satan's power is great. He influences the corruption of governments, the mass destruction of families, the oppression of the poor, the greedy polution of capitalism. His victory seems certain at times.

But it only seems that way when we forget the turning point has already happened. Satan's defeat is already sealed. It's just a matter of finishing him off. For us, it's a slow painful conclusion to the match, but the match is set.

Think of the immense power it must have taken to hate evil, yet patiently over thousands of years defeat it through humility and weakness. How much internal strength it must have taken to stay on the cross when He could have easily gotten off. That's a kind of power of which sheer physical strength is only a small reflection.

And that's what sports are for: reflecting the payoff of patient and consistent endurance in order to achieve a great victory.

When you train hard for a sport, perfecting your movement and timing, you don't just glorify God by thanking him and point up when you receive your trophy. You glorify him by showing the world a physical representation of the greatest victory ever won.

When we watch sports and get excited about them, it's an opportunity to simultaneously get excited about the great victory God accomplished for us. For me, having grown up in the church, sometimes it's hard to get excited about God's victory like I used to at summer camps and such.

I believe we'll be reenacting this drama through sports for all eternity, inventing new ones along the way and gathering from all over the universe to see the very best competing against each other. The excitement we get from doing that now is nothing in comparison to the Earth 2.0 competitions we'll witness. And at the root of all of it is the character of God shining through.

Now it's your turn. How does this eternal perspective on sports change the way you view your interactions with athletics this side of heaven?

image credit: Tim Farrell / The Star Ledger