Sports and an ‘incorruptible’ crown for all

In light of the upcoming men’s World Cup soccer tournament, a club soccer player shares how getting to know God as divine Mind helped him find deeper purpose and joy in his activities – a lesson that has value both on and off the field.

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The quadrennial FIFA Men’s World Cup soccer tournament commences on Nov. 20 in Qatar. The competition, in which 32 nations will participate, is a month-long event that will be followed closely on TV by people around the globe.

In the Scriptures, the Apostle Paul, a New Testament writer, uses sports as a metaphor. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (I Corinthians 9:24, 25).

My study of Christian Science – combined with participation in several sports – has helped me to discover the value of a spiritual, “incorruptible” approach to playing sports. That is, participating as a way of honoring and praising our creator, God, rather than simply seeking a “corruptible” crown such as fame or self-aggrandizement.

On and off the playing field, striving to express spiritual qualities such as resilience, joyfulness, affection, and unselfishness helps us to obtain the “incorruptible” crown that Paul refers to. The expression of such qualities reveals and affirms our God-given, spiritual identity – an identity each of us can discover and demonstrate.

In my teenage years I played soccer and always enjoyed the games. However, my enjoyment would be marred by disappointment if our team lost. I began to question this. I asked myself, Should the outcome of the match determine my joy at participating in this activity?

I considered this passage from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science: “Mind, joyous in strength, dwells in the realm of Mind. Mind’s infinite ideas run and disport themselves. In humility they climb the heights of holiness” (p. 514).

In this passage, Mind is used as a name for God and conveys His infinite, unbounded nature. And each of us is an idea of Mind, the wholly spiritual creation of God. So I reasoned that if we are all ideas, or expressions, of the one divine Mind, then we do not collide or contend with each other. Rather, we complement each other. Therefore in our everyday lives it is natural for us to uphold and support each other, even in an athletic match.

This understanding of everyone’s spiritual and complete identity as the expression of God transformed my approach to competing in sports. It became a way of discovering and expressing the unfettered and immutable nature of our true, spiritual identity. My joy no longer hinged on the final score of each match. I just loved celebrating the qualities of Mind, God, through this activity. With this approach, as an adult I played soccer for a non-professional club in England, and found myself enjoying the game more than ever.

During this year’s men’s soccer World Cup, we can support players, coaches, and fans by prayerfully acknowledging everyone’s innate ability to glorify God, to praise Him, and to bear witness to infinite Mind’s precision, elegance, beauty, and grace. This contributes to an environment that values sportsmanship, dignity, graciousness, and respect for all involved.

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