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This week’s question comes from a first year university student – they ask:
Dear Christians in Sport,
I’m heading to university this September and I’m really excited to get stuck into the hockey team. My sister played at university and loved it, but she said that freshers have to go through initiations to join the club, and, to be honest, I’m a bit nervous about attending an initiation as a Christian. Should I go at all, how much should I get involved with things I know the Bible tells me are wrong?
"What should I do? How much is enough? Should I get involved or not?"
These are the nervous questions many of us begin to ask as the prospect of a sports social looms and the rumour mill begins;
"This club do this…that club do that…"
Depending on the culture at your university sports club, the experience of welcome drinks or socials are drastically different. However, these foundational principles can be applied to all scenarios; grounded in God’s word and worked out through prayer and accountability.
It is always right to ask God for His wisdom in the grey areas; when to stay involved and when to leave, when to get stuck in and when to remain in the background. Being a Christian fresher in a new university sports club can be daunting and lonely at times particularly with older, more confident members of the club assuming roles of responsibility. The ressure in these situations is either to conform to the culture or to run away.
There are times it’s right to duck out of socials however they can also be amazing opportunities. So how can we turn these daunting prospects into times of worship and witness as we live out our faith?
1 Peter 2 speaks beautifully into the tensions faced at socials. Firstly, we must be reminded of where our identity lies as believers in Jesus Christ. Through his death and resurrection we are now:
A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Look at who you are in Christ. Chosen People, a royal priesthood, people of God. Your identity is not dependent on you downing a pint, saying certain things or singing certain songs that make you feel uncomfortable. This is who you are by believing in him as Lord and Saviour and that doesn’t change regardless of what does or doesn’t happen at a social. You are secure as a child of God – that is your identity. Now allow that to drive your decisions and motivations in all you do; including socials.
Christ is our authority, and here are various practical outworkings of that truth:
Be confident in who you are in Christ and remember that it doesn’t change. He is your saviour and friend and lives within you by His spirit. Therefore, you can say no. It is freeing to know you don’t have to drink that drink, to do that thing or even go to a social if it places you in a compromising position. For you don’t need to impress those around you - your identity in Christ does not depend on it.
Also, be confident in the grace of God. At times we do make mistakes but, in those times, thank God for his never-ending grace with which his love for you has not changed.
In 1 Peter 2:11 Peter talks about abstaining from sinful desires. Be prepared for the sports culture. It’s important to be in the culture but not of the culture. So know yourself, what it is you struggle with and put necessary measures in place to ensure you aren’t tempted and caused to stumble. It’s so much harder to get out of the situation if you haven’t made plans and boundaries beforehand.
Find out what is involved and if an element of a social is something where you could compromise your faith do take the necessary steps to prevent that happening. For example, many find it helpful to set limits in advance. Discuss and share this with someone and allow them to hold you accountable. Alternatively, notify the social secretary in advance and state what you are or aren’t willing to do and importantly why that’s your standpoint.
In 1 Peter 2:12 of that same passage, Peter urges us to live amongst those who don’t trust Jesus. Christ in you can make you strong as you seek to do this. Socials are a chance to grow and build friendships with sports people early on. A chance to live out your faith for all to see and for Jesus to be made known.
Lay your stall out early and stick with it; nailing your colours to the mast that Jesus Christ is your Lord and saviour. The first couple of weeks may be difficult – you may be mocked and questioned - but once your club see your unwavering faith there is hope that many will come to respect you and what you believe. And from that point on you will be known as the ‘Christian’ in the club.
University sport is unique. Socials are unique. And so is Christ in you!
Allow him to be your reason, desire and joy for all you do.
Do you have any questions about sport and faith?
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