For the first time in 50 years, two teams from the same state will play one another in the NCAA Final Four! In 1962, Cincy defeated Ohio State. 50 years later, the drama moves south from the Buckeye State to the Bluegrass State. For our state and city, this is glorious. On Saturday, the entire state along with a lot of the country will pause to watch what is perhaps the biggest ever Battle of the Bluegrass basketball game. How are we to think about glorious sports events like this as Christians? How can we help our kids (particularly young boys who are talking about this with their friends all week at school) think about the Bluegrass Battle in light of the gospel?
I sent these questions to two friends who are also Sojourn members and high school coaches. Andrew Coverdale is a member at Sojourn Midtown, and he is the offensive coordinator for the Trinity Rocks football team. Clay Moody is a member at Sojourn East. He is head coach of the J-town High Chargers boys' basketball team. Here are their tips:
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 Peyton Siva or Anthony Davis 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 or 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. Sojourn East Worship Pastor, Jamie Barnes, joked on Twitter this week that the UK vs U of L basketball game might be an evil plot by the Joker to divide the Commonwealth of Kentucky against itself. As Jesus said, a house divided against itself cannot stand. 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. Throw a Red/Blue party at your house. If you haven't noticed, this is a major cultural event, and it's a great opportunity to show some neighborly love to friends who don't know Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Photo courtesy of Julie Gross