March Madness and the Gospel

It's that time of year when work stops for basketball. In the state of Kentucky where I live we have two sweet 16 teams and one hoping to go 40-0 and win the title. It's gotten me thinking. How are we to think about sports events like this as Christians? How can we help our kids - especially young boys who are talking about this with their friends all week at school - think about March Madness in light of the gospel?

Yes, it's that time of the year where dads everywhere are glued to the television watching every dramatic basketball moment unfold.  It’s also a time where many dads zone off into TV land and don't return to real life for hours. But for dads who have the privilege of having kids old enough to enjoy sports – this can be some great quality time.  The Scripture tells us to “let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” A couple of years back during the tournament, I texted a couple of my friends who are high school ball coaches here in Louisville. They sent back some pretty incredible tips for enjoying March Madness with your family and neighbors. Here they are: 

1. God gives us moments like this to enjoy, so enjoy! Anything in the world that we get excited about or take delight in originated with him, so let’s celebrate the competition, and, in doing so, celebrate him (James 1:17).

2. Point out examples of strength and courage. An athletic contest provides tons of opportunities to talk with our kids about courage and strength in the midst of adversity. We can have courage because we have a strong God who goes with us into the most difficult moments (Joshua 1:9).

3. Point out examples of unselfish play. When stars like Jahlil Okafor or Willie Cauley-Stein look for the dish instead of being a ball hog and taking it themselves, point this out to your kids. Unselfish play provides an opportunity to talk about working for God rather than men and putting others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2).

4. God wants us to enjoy the game, but he wants our happiness to be anchored in him. Basketball fortunes change with the bounce of a ball, the choices of an 18-year-old, or the randomness of a whistle. If you’ve chosen sides, there is (at least) a 50/50 chance that your team’s winning ways will change. But God never changes (1 Timothy 6:17).

5. Ask the question, “How devastated will you feel if the game doesn’t go your way?” If it will ruin your whole week, it’s a good indication you’re turning a good thing into an ultimate thing. Ask a gracious God to help you with this. Allow him to engage you in a wrestling match with your heart. Ask him to become a bigger delight to you than he presently is.

6. Love your enemies. This is just a game. If the game cripples your ability to relate to others (particularly others rooting for the other team), that’s another good indication you’re turning a good thing into an ultimate thing.

7. Finally, use the game as an excuse to show gospel hospitality by inviting in and getting to know your neighbors. If you haven’t noticed, this is a major cultural event. It’s a great opportunity to show some neighborly love to friends who don’t know Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20). Throw and party and invite your neighbor over.

What are you doing to enjoy the games this year and share it with your family and friends? Leave a comment below.