The inaugural chairman of the Sports and Leisure Ministry the Reverend Roger Reid, now in his eighties, assisted me to develop an understanding of how Christians have developed a theology of enjoying sport.
Roger Reid first considered this subject way back in 1986 when he wrote a first paper with first thoughts on the nature of that enjoyment, in the hope that it might prompt deeper consideration of the matters it raises. Now, with collaboration, we have developed this further.
The satisfaction element
When we have driven a golf ball straight to the next green, or have ridden a good wave, or our team has outplayed and out-goalled opponents, we have a surge of happiness arising from a sense of achievement.
If that happens more than once on an occasion, and if it is not outweighed by disappointment at failures, we go home with enjoyment. That enjoyment continues as we relive the events of the day with our friends.
Some days, at training or in the game, we have felt that our bodies and minds are perfectly tuned. We do well at all we attempt. These times of top fitness give us joy.
As spectators there is a joy that rises out of the constantly changing fortunes in a game. We are excited by a skilful pass, a clever evasion, and feel frustration as the move is brought to an end by a tackle or a mistake.
There is joy too, in remembering earlier days of sport. Many of us look back across the years with great pleasure to the days when we "ran with the lads." or "played for our club". That memory is not always followed by a hankering for the time when our backs were supple and our muscles had some spring!
For some that enjoyment in retrospect is magnified by their continuing friendship with team-mates from those days.
This joy is still ours should we become professional sports people. Of course there is the danger that it might disappear if we allow ourselves to become stale, or have it crowded out by the fear of loss of livelihood through injury or loss of form. But this fate is common to all occupations.
Joy and Happiness
As Christians we recognise this joy as one of God's good gifts. It is part of that wider joy that Paul described as a "fruit" of the Holy Spirit. Our Jewish heritage contains the belief that this world was intended to be a place of happiness. In that description of the foundations of human life given us in Genesis we read of mankind being placed in the Garden, the Garden is called "Eden" which in Hebrew means "bliss" or "happiness". The joy we gain from sport is that part of 'bliss'.
And yet there are times whether as spectators or when we are doubtful about the quality of our joy. Like all aspects of our life our feelings of joy in sport can be tinged by the shadow of evil. Worse, it can be totally perverted so that we gain joy from wrong doing.
Tomorrow I will reflect on the other side of the coin, the perversion of sport.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html