Sunday Morning “Competition”

We have let one of our daughters join a volleyball club this spring. This volleyball club practices on Sunday afternoons, which we knew in advance, and also has tournaments on Sundays, which we didn’t know in advance. We didn’t think they would be all day Sunday tournaments each time. But regardless, they are. If she wants to continue to play on the school team next fall, this team is a necessity. We would like to encourage her in her skills and abilities that God has given her, and in relationships with other people, so we have chosen to allow her to play on this team this year. She will not participate in every tournament, but she has participated in most of them.

So the question is, what about sports on Sunday morning? What are the issues of “competition” with Sunday worship? Let me put some of my thoughts down, because I think better when I write, so that you can interact with me.

First, what do I believe about sports? I believe that sports, when kept in their proper place and perspective, can be good and useful in the life of the believer. We see Paul using competition analogies in Scripture, holding up sports as an example of discipline, while keeping it in proper prespective (1 Tim. 4:8). God has used sports to teach me self-control, teamwork, discipline, and pleasure in God through the use of my physical body. I believe there are positive benefits to sports, when they do not become too important to us.

Second, is the issue really just related to sports? What about parents who let their kids stay out too long on Saturday night and then let them sleep in on Sunday? How about those who go on weekend hunting trips, to the lake for the weekend in the summer time, or any other conflict that takes them away from Sunday worship? Those are related issues that probably should be considered just as much as sporting conflicts.

Third, what do I believe about Sunday worship? On one hand, am I a strict Sabbatarian, seeing Sunday as a day sacred and holy to the Lord, on which no work or any other activity is to be done? Or do I have the view that each day is holy to the Lord? Paul addresses the question in Romans 14:5-8: One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.  7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

It is interesting that Paul does not take a side on whether Sunday is the Sabbath or whether each day is holy to God, although James Boice thinks Paul is on the side of the one who sees each day alike. According to Boice, Paul gives three criteria for evaluating your view on these permissible issues.

  1. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. According to Paul, both views are permissible. One is not right and the other wrong. He considers this issue in the same way he considers the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. We Christians today consider drinking or abstaining from alcohol as a similar type of issue. Each of the differing views is permissible, and we need to extend grace to those who disagree with us, not judging them because they have judged this issue rightly in their own mind. The issue for Paul is whether you firmly hold and are convinced of your view in your own mind, before God. The word means to be absolutely sure, fully certain of what you believe. You thought it through and know where you stand on your view of Sunday.
  2. It is possible to serve the Lord either way. In verse 6 Paul states three times that those who hold to one side or the other of these issues do it “in honor of the Lord.” Whether one eats or abstains, either one can honor God in what he does, as can those who have a Sabbatarian view of Sunday and those who hold that each day is holy. They can each honor God in their view. So the question for me is, am I serving God by what I am doing?
  3. Can you be thankful to God in what you do? Boice quotes F. Godet in this regard; “May I allow myself this or that pleasure? Yes, if I can enjoy it to the Lord, and while giving him thanks for it; no, if I cannot receive it as a gift from his hand, and bless him for it. This mode of solution respects at once the rights of the Lord and those of individual liberty.”

I believe the latter, that each day is holy to the Lord. Even though we set aside one day out of the week to worship the Lord, each day is sacred and each activity in which we participate should bring glory to God, whatever it might be and whenever it might be. So, in all that we do we want to teach our children that it must be done to give glory to God. This is true of sports, this is true of dramatic and musical activities that I have participated in with my children, this is true of school or family life.

Absence from worship on Sunday morning should be the exception rather than the rule. If it becomes a regular habit then the issue becomes a heart problem not an attendance problem. We want our children to find their treasure in God, not in anything else. We teach our children that Sunday worship is not something to be skipped just because it is a nice day, or because they are tired, or because of any other thing that they or we regularly want to do. This can also be said of midweek bible studies, service opportunities, or even things like showers that we think they should attend to be supportive or encouraging to other people. This is something we will regularly evaluate as well, this being the first time we have had to address this kind of conflict. I am convinced that this is the correct view of Sunday, that I can honor the Lord by allowing my daughter to miss a Sunday service occasionally, and that she can honor the Lord through her actions and attitudes as she plays.

These are some of my thoughts. I invite your feedback and comments so that we can assess together what most honors God.

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