The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.

I remember watching Chariots of Fire and seeing Eric Liddle choose not to run in a particular Olympic event because it was being held on a Sunday.

I have heard of Test cricketers who have made a stand against playing on Sundays … and ended their Test careers.

Sport on Sundays is a contentious issue.

When I was a teenager my father allowed me to play sport on Sundays and now, as a father, I allow my son to play sport on Sundays. I struggle with the decision every week though.

I often wonder if my struggle is because church culture has told me not to play sport on Sundays or whether it is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit prompting me.

Sunday used to be a day where you didn’t work, couldn’t go to the shops and certainly didn’t get involved in sport.

Sunday was a day for worship and Exodus 20:8-11 (“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”) was a key text.

I think that Jesus is saying in Mark 2:27 not to hold onto the Sabbath legalistically but to hold onto it as a gift from God: “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”

As much as having a Sabbath and being involved weekly in corporate worship is centrally important, the way we express that in today’s church is so different.

The expressions and timing of church and worship are very different today: midweek, Saturday night, in a house or out in the open.

The way we express our faith is also very different today. There is a greater emphasis on worshipping God in every area of life, in all that we do.

I believe that as Christians we are to hold tightly to our calling of Matthew 28:19 to “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Being involved in sport on Sundays can be a great opportunity for some of us to do that — our presence in those places is not to be underestimated. I have seen and heard the testimonies of many Christian sportspeople who choose to compete on Sundays in good conscience.

I think asking ourselves whether we should play sport on Sundays is the wrong question. The question I’d rather ask is, “How do I live a life of worship and make the most of every missional opportunity God gives me?”

The Rev. Roger Brook is Executive Pastor at Hope Valley Uniting Church, South Australia.

 

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1 thought on “Sport on Sunday?”

  1. Observing Sunday as a “Christian sabbath” as if it were a day of rest along the lines of the Jewish Sabbath is a relatively new phenomenon. The Scots Presbyterians established the idea in the seventeenth century and the practice came into Methodism via John Wesley’s appropriation of the Puritan sabbath. This was not the practice of the earliest Christians who as Jewish followers of Christ kept the Saturday sabbath as well as meeting on the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection. As the church became more Gentilised sabbath observance fell away. Where the Sabbath commemorates God’s rest from creation and his covenant with Israel, the Christian “Lord’s Day” celebrates not rest but new creation. Some of the early Christian writers spoke of Sunday as the “eighth day” because it brought into being a whole new deal for humanity and indeed for the entire universe. Christ conquered sin, hell, and death on the first day of the week ushering in a new age – the Gospel age. Though there are many important feasts in the Church’s worship, such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, Sunday takes precedence over them all, for all other celebrations derive from the Sunday celebration which commemorates the central event on the Christian calendar. Every Sunday is a mini-Easter. Better still, every Easter is a big Sunday! Adventists are correct that Saturday, not Sunday, is the sabbath. But they are wrong in saying that Christians ought to observe it as such. We do not keep a day of rest but a day of active worship and celebration. Some people can include sport as well, but worship should take priority.

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