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Sportsmanship is Next to Godliness

Two campers

“Self-controlled”, “courageous”, “fair”…all words we would love for our kids to be characterized by! Walt shares with us some wise words as to why and how we can teach good sportsmanship, which points us and others toward Godliness as well!


Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8


One of my favorite scenes in sports occurs every spring. Two NHL hockey teams conclude what has been a bitter, brutal playoff series with a post-series handshake line. The custom traces back over 100 years, and I love and value the tradition.

There is something noble about seeing men who have battled as hard as they can on the ice compose themselves enough to offer congratulations to the other team.  The class of these men can be seen in how they handle a winning handshake line or even more significantly the losing line. This is sportsmanship on display for the world to see.

Wikipedia says Sportsmanship “refers to virtues such as fairness, self-control, courage, and persistence.” Looking at these virtues from a Biblical light leads one to believe good sportsmanship is Godly.

What one believes is “Fair” might be up for discussion. It seems certain it would include what is commanded in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

“Self-control” is visible in its expression and absence. We have all witnessed the embarrassing temper tantrum on a court, a field, or in a store. The opposite is admonished for the follower of Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 says God’s Spirit wants to grow a supernatural fruit in each believer. “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When we are walking with the Lord self-control should mark our life in our sports, homes, schools and workplaces. I still shudder when I remember losing my temper on a basketball court a few years ago and needing to leave in the middle of a pickup game to compose myself before I said or did something which I would later regret. Not my best moment as a Bible professor and pastor.

“Courage” is a wonderful aspect of good sportsmanship. I love the passage in Joshua 1:6-9 where three times God implores Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” This word, “courageous” implies strength in the knees for standing solidly – even when you feel like running away!

Why would God command Joshua to be courageous? When he is first mentioned in Exodus 17:8-16 he is being strong & courageous! Of the 12 spies in Numbers 14:6-9 He and Caleb were the strong and courageous! But Joshua was now needing to be courageous in a new life situation. Moses his boss/mentor/hero is dead and he will be the new leader in a difficult situation.  A possible lesson from this true story: courage sometimes must be re-learned in the midst of change.

Camper Corner

If we incorporate the virtues of fairness, self-control, and courage into our lives and teach our children to do the same, we will practice good sportsmanship and grow in Godliness.

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