Why I seldom mention the All Blacks in a service

I am a huge All Black fan.Some of my earliest memories are waking up in the middle of the night with my brother to listen to the All Blacks play the Springbok on the radio. I was on the sideline at Eden Park in 1987 when John Kirwin set off on an 80-metre run in which he jinked and swerved his way through the Italian team to score and set the first Rugby World cup alight. I grieved with most of New Zealand when we lost the 1995 World Cup final to South Africa in the last minute of extra time and celebrated a year later when the All Blacks claimed their first series win in South Africa. I experienced the nail biting tension of the 2011 World Cup final when the All Blacks held on to beat France, and got up in the early hours of the morning to watch the All Blacks do it again four years later in England.

But, it is easy to get too enamoured with the All Blacks and sports in general. At the end of the day the All Blacks are just a team, a great team, maybe even the greatness, but nevertheless still a team, and rugby is just a sport – a game. While sport is a good thing, because God made us capable of physical activity and he wants us to enjoy doing it.It can become too big of a deal for many of us, especially men.As Mark Driscoll is so fond of saying, when we take a good thing (like sport) and make it a god thing it becomes a bad thing.In other words it becomes an idol.

An "idol" is something we look to other than God to give our lives a sense meaning, significance, fulfilment, joy or happiness. Even our media notes that there is an appreciable lift in the mood and economy of the nation if the All Blacks win and a corresponding down turn if they don't.Woman's refuge sadly notes there is a huge spike in domestic violence when the All Blacks lose a game. The fact that the result of game affects the way we spend our money, work and treat people is tragic, and shows sports has way too big a role in our nation's psyche.

So that brings us to the all important question, how do we know when a sporting team, or a sport is becoming an idol in our lives? What are some of the hallmarks of someone who elevated a sport or a sports team to an idol?

  1. You spend a great deal of time thinking and talking about the team you follow.When you have a conversation with someone your team or sport quickly comes up in the conversation.You think and talk about what you worship and love.
  2. You know a great deal about the team. You can say who made the team in what year and who scored the winning try in a particular match or who dropped the ball.You can quote sporting results better than you can recite Scripture.
  3. You watch every game and won't make any appointments when a game is on, in case you miss it.
  4. You spend more money on your Sky sports and tickets and your team's clothing than you give to mission or charities.
  5. You are really HIGH after a win or really LOW after a loss – even after a considerable time has passed after the game.
  6. The result of game will influence how you work and treat those you love.If your team loses you feel depressed and get grumpy and angry at people.
  7. You spend way more time reading about and watching your team than you do studying Scripture, in prayer, worship, or Christian service/ministry. How you spend your time speaks to what you love. Just think about it. As Christians, God is to be the source of our joy, and fulfilment not a sports team. When you let other things move into that space, even good things, the effect on your spiritual wellbeing can be significant.
As Christians there is nothing wrong with supporting the All Blacks or any other sporting team. But as I said at the beginning of this article we need to keep it in perspective, they are just a team and rugby is just a game. If they lose or win the sun will still rise and set until Christ returns. The time, money, and emotional energy we put into rugby and the All Blacks in this country is truly staggering. As Christians we need to step away from it and keep boundaries around it. We should not be defined by it. We should not get transcendental highs or lows from it. It shouldn't affect our attitude or how we treat those we love.As a nation we can admire and praise the All Blacks for what they have achieved. But, at the same time still realize in the scheme of eternity it's all transitory. It will turn to dust. We know that, of course. But, we don't always act like it. That's why on Sunday I would rather talk about Christ and what he has done.He is the ultimate source of my joy and I find my true significance in him.In his house he alone should be held up and glorified, for He has truly overcome the world (John 16:33).


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