Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4

The verse above seems impossible to apply in the context of sports. It’s one of those passages that doesn’t motivate us pregame or that we use as an Instagram caption postgame. How can an athlete value and care more about others in the midst of competition? You might think there’s no way you can play at your highest level while caring about someone else. These are the questions and thoughts I had as a Christian athlete. I mistakenly believed there were certain commands that didn’t fit the sports world so I put them to the side.

The way of life God has called us to live as His children does not change based on context. On or off the field, we are called to love God and love others. Contrary to what the world is teaching us, sports is not a setting where God turns a blind-eye so you can be prideful, selfish, and act angrily towards another person. The Apostle Paul (who often uses sports imagery in his letters to the early church) doesn’t say, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, except when you’re playing sports.”

So, how do we apply this teaching? It starts with your motivation. If you play sports to receive glory, attention, and approval then it will be impossible to apply. However, if you set your heart’s desire on worshipping God with your play and focus more of your attention on your teammates, it becomes very possible. You will begin to see opportunities to serve, encourage and uplift your teammates. It’s amazing how the less we focus on ourselves, the more we are able to play and live as we were originally created. I’ll conclude with this quote which has challenged me:

“If you want to really experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation, pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice in their success. If Christians were universally to do this for each other, the earth would soon be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God.” – Dallas Willard  

  • Reflect on this verse and what God might be calling you to change.
  • Repent of ways you have lived and played that are counter to God’s ways. Receive His grace and love.
  • Ask God to show you ways where you can love Him and love others throughout your time in sports.