We are currently in the midst of summer, when many are able to spend a little extra time with their family or friends. Children are out of school and the days are long. It is a time when the weather affords us an opportunity to enjoy many outdoor activities, such as camping, fishing, and hiking. It is also a time when many enjoy various sporting activities. When I think of summer, I can’t help but think of baseball. In fact, it has become a huge part of our culture. As the saying goes, “American as mother, apple pie, hot dogs, and baseball.” In the past, if you were found guilty of not liking baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, or your mother, then you were quickly labeled as being “un-American,” which basically meant that you were a communist.
Baseball is played at all levels, from informal games played by children to professional games played by adults. Although the level of talent between the two extremes is obviously vast, there is one thing that they both have in common. That one thing is competition. At the youth level, the emphasis is more on playing a good game and doing your best. At the professional level, the emphasis is on winning at all costs. While the level of competition is much higher at the adult level, both levels exhibit some amount of competition. With each successive level, the amount of competition becomes greater and greater.
Of course, baseball and other modern-day sports are not found in the Bible. Competition and strife, however, are subjects that are covered. We should do our best to live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18). When the score is tied and tensions are high, and you are sitting next to someone who is rooting for the opposing team, how easy is it to fulfill the requirements of this scripture? We are also told to pursue those things that promote peace and that build up one another (Rom. 14:19). Again, this can be rather challenging, when decades-long rivalries exist. Furthermore, we are admonished to make sure that our actions are not done through selfish ambition or vanity, but in much humility (Phil. 2:3). When certain athletes or teams cheat in various ways to gain advantage, how is this scripture being applied?
While watching or participating in baseball, and other professional sports, can be exciting, should we allow such activities to dominate our lives? Should we allow ourselves to become so focused on these pastimes, that our attention is subtly shifted from one way of life to another? Like most things, having the right balance is very important. If we wake up in the morning, and find it necessary to immediately check all of the sports scores from the previous evening, prior to even thinking about picking up the Bible, then we may want to consider reevaluating our priorities. It is understandable if this occurs occasionally for a particular game, but there should be cause for concern if it becomes a frequent practice.
The lifelong event in which we are all involved, is compared to a race. In physical races with which we are familiar, there is only one winner. However, in the spiritual race that we are running, each of us can be a winner and obtain the prize. The important thing is to run the race to completion, exhibiting much self-control along the way (I Cor. 9:24-27). With the understanding that this world’s focus is on glorifying and emphasizing the competition that exists between two or more parties, let us instead have a humble desire to compete against the self, not each other (Luke 19:12-19).