Originally posted on my blog unmaskedtheologian.wordpress.com 2/15/15

Sports have become god to many Americans. Competition has become idolatrous. This is probably not unique among cultures, but I am addressing American culture, and it is clear that many Americans spend to much time participating in, viewing, and obsessing about sports. This reality is worthy of a discussion in the future. While it is important for us to be alarmed about this obsession, this truth is not the purpose of the post. The influence of sports and the need to win first place has led to an even larger problem, the unwillingness to surrender to God’s plan for His children. One thing is not responsible for our lack of understanding and progressive sanctification. But, I do believe that our culture has imposed upon us a negative connotation regarding “surrender.” We do not want to give in to our Savior’s command to love, serve, and sacrifice our lives to Him and others. We sacrifice in many areas; we endure rigorous training for sports, for military training, and for education. We do not sacrifice our pride, our idolatrous need to be first, to be right, and to be the best, even when it involves the expense of the involuntary sacrifice and hurt of others.

Maybe you are familiar with some of these expressions: winners never quit, quitters never win, no pain, no gain, blood, sweat, tears, and pain are all weakness leaving the body, never surrender, never quit, never give up, second place is the first loser, if your not first your last, if you didn’t give it your all you didn’t try, go hard or go home, train hard, wrap/tape it up and get back in the game, and the popular NIKE slogan, just do it! All of these expressions are used to motivate athletes. I am suggesting that these expressions lead to a philosophy that is countercultural to pilgrim living and contradicts the servant and surrender teaching of Christ.

My illustration is this, imagine a boxer who is physically exhausted and in danger of becoming seriously injured. Any good manager would throw in the towel. In fact, in this scenario the manager has thrown in a towel. The fans in the crowd chant, don’t give in, don’t quit, you can do it. The athlete is reminded of how hard he has trained and is unable to see that he has lost and he cannot see the danger in continuing. Despite the efforts of his manager he continues to fight and as a result the fans cheer. Our manager is Christ, and He has thrown in the towel. He has told us to throw in the towel. He has commanded us to love, to surrender, and to be a servant. He has taught us to to give in, to give up, to be dependent on him, to be weak for His sake, to be hated for His sake, and to sacrifice our all for Him and others. Christian, let’s not allow culture to dictate our thinking, our lives, our philosophy, our theology, our understanding, and our love. Throw in the towel, surrendering to Christ and others is nothing to be ashamed of. Throwing in the towel requires humility, it means loving mean and difficult people. It requires putting others before ourselves. It means holding back our words, even when we want to tell people off  or defend ourselves. It may result in suffering. Throwing in the towel is the first step to the liberation that we can all find in Christ.