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Can We Compete Well AND Honor Christ?

A group of campers hugging

We all know it’s the best and worst part of the game…two opposing teams coming together in a sign of sportsmanship by shaking hands. Judah learned a life-long lesson as a teen at one such occasion and shares with us the importance of it.


Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6


My team, yet again, suffered a loss at the hand of the team we could never seem to beat.  As the 13 year old rows of boys passed each other lightly high fiving and reciprocating “good game” one pitiful boy stood out. After silently walking through the line and very firmly slapping the hands of my opponents I made the turn back to the dugout, only to be greeted by Coach Jimmy (my dad). Before I knew it, I was in the middle of the other team’s huddle apologizing to each of them and joining their breakout cheer.

Embarrassing? Yes. Infuriating? Yes. Unforgettable? Yes.

Here are a few things I learned from this experience, and my dad, about competing in a Christ-like manner:

  1. Coach (even if you’re not the official coach). In this story, my dad was an actual coach of the team. However, I can think of numerous circumstances in which he chose to speak up when I needed technical or behavioral correction, and praise, even though he was not the official coach. Ultimately my dad understood the importance of “training me up in the way I should go”, (Proverbs 22:6). He saw that my conduct was falling short of Christ and took responsibility to bring me up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:14). His ability to coach me towards competing like Christ started with his own understanding of scripture.
  2. Model it. The way I see it, my dad had three options: shrug off my behavior, chalking it up to immaturity and moving on; pull me aside for private correction and discipline; or he could correct AND model what Christ would have me do. Thankfully he chose option three. I very clearly remember the embarrassment of facing those boys, but what I failed to notice (until long after the fact) was the embarrassment this caused my dad. He did not avoid walking alongside of me the entire way just because it would cause us both humiliation. We see this in scripture when Paul challenges the readers to imitate him as he imitates Christ (Philippians 3:17). My dad’s example of humbly joining me in pursuit of forgiveness was just as impactful for me and the other boys as my tearful apology.
  3. There can still be success without winning. It’s hard enough to compete in a Christ-like manner, but the uphill battle becomes even more steep when our view of success rests solely in the win/loss column. My 13-year-old actions were a reflection of this failure, but I will always consider this story to be one of success because of the growth it produced in my life. Kids (and adults) must understand that we are eternally accountable for the way we compete, not how many games we’ve won. My dad helped me understand this truth (founded in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) by placing more effort to praise and correct my attitude and behavior rather than my athletic results. 

Do I still have a desire to win? Oh yeah! That may never change, but thanks to scripture and good parenting I am better equipped to reflect Christ in that pursuit.

Remember competition is an opportunity to train our children in how to be more like Christ.

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