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Sportsmanship



Spiritual Training Cycle: Foundation (wk. 13/13)

 

When young athletes step on the field, coaches are often less concerned with the outcome then they are with the process. While technique, alignment, and skill are part of that process, great coaches are shaping something even more valuable in these young athletes. We call it sportsmanship. Sportsmanship didn’t start on a soccer field or a football field, it began on a battlefield.

 

The term ‘sportsmanship’ has early links with warfare and the need to maintain our humanity during war. Sportsmanship in war means seeing humanity in the enemy. Success, therefore, isn’t just in winning, but also in maintaining humanity during the battle. When we acknowledge the humanity in an opponent, we can start to show them kindness. Kindness is lending our strength to someone who needs it.

 

Kindness sees the good in other people, even when they cannot see it themselves. Opportunities for kindness sprout up in the gym every New Year, when the fresh batch of Resolutor’s arrive. Resolved to make this year their fittest, healthiest ever, they purchase a gym membership, update their fashion fitness look, and walk in determined.

 

But, like all of us, these Resolutor’s are carrying some extra weight. And I don’t just mean pounds around the midsection. They have some old thoughts, habits, and beliefs about who they are and what they are capable of. And when they get stuck in the old beliefs, they miss the opportunity to see the good in themselves. That’s when they need some kindness.

 

We can remind them of the progress they have made and encourage them to push through when the going gets tough. We can bring to light their inner strength, regardless of past struggles. Sometimes the strength others need is to see themselves as God sees them. That’s sportsmanship. And it’s kindness on full display.

 

Kindness isn’t only for new athletes in the gym. It’s also for those who make our lives painful. We witness stories in the Bible when Jesus chose to bless those who abused and hurt Him. Jesus prayed for these people and asked God to forgive them. Jesus asks us to do the same and choose to bless our enemies with love, grace, and kindness. If Jesus can see the good in His enemies, we can too. Our faith encourages us to extend undeserved kindness and see people the way Jesus sees them.

 

In the early days of the Christian church, a Jewish leader named Saul was using his position to persecute, imprison, and kill followers of Jesus. Jesus eventually appeared to Saul and blinded him for three days. During this time, Jesus appeared to one of His followers named Ananias and instructed him to bless Saul by restoring his sight.

 

We read in Acts 9:13-15,

 

 “‘Lord’, Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports of this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

 

Jesus is able to see through Saul’s past behavior and helps Ananias do the same. Ananias is called to see what Jesus sees. Ananias is called to bless someone who might otherwise be considered his enemy. Jesus is the conduit to showing someone kindness amidst extreme circumstances like this. Saul was literally blind to his own potential. He was blind to what Jesus was calling him to!

 

We continue in Acts 9:17-19,

 

“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord - Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here - has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

 

Saul is able to see and regain his strength after receiving this blessing from Ananias. Saul is able to see the plans Jesus has for him and commits himself to Jesus’ purpose for his life. Ananias’ kindness sees the good in Saul the way Jesus did.

 

Displaying kindness to our ‘enemies’ or ‘opponents’ is often much easier said than done. If we focus only on what jersey they’re wearing, which flag they’re waving, or the overarching differences between us, we will miss seeing the good in them. When we miss seeing the good, we forget how powerful our kindness can truly be. Grace, love, and kindness are a clear route to becoming more like Jesus. Kindness is the strength we find in Jesus!

 

Questions for Reflection:

Can you think of a time when you missed out on an opportunity to show someone kindness?

 

In what ways have you witnessed undeserved kindness impact someone for the better?

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