If I cheer for my favorite team, but have not shown love to the opposing fan sitting next to me then I am only a vuvuzela or a thunderstick. If I cheer for my team and know all the reasons why they won, and have faith that my team will win the championships, but have not shown respect to my rival, then I am missing out on something. If I wear my team’s merchandise and dedicate my weekend plans around my team’s game, but have not reached out to my friend who roots for the other team, then I’m forgetting something important.
Love is respectful to all, including my rivals on the playing field. Love is being a good sport. It does not point to the scoreboard. It does not brag about accomplishments. It doesn’t even ridicule our rivals. It is not mean spirited to someone simply because they chose to root for another team. It does not get too upset if our team loses. It does not see the world as coming to an end should that happen. Love does not rejoice when the other team is put on probation. Love finds a way to support great play regardless of the uniform. Love always seeks out good competition, fair play, and good-natured fun.
Love doesn’t stop on the playing fields. Truly, championships will come and championships will go. Seasons will be successful and seasons will end in disappointment. Our hope is that one day we will see our rival as our neighbor. Yes, when I was young I wanted nothing more than to see my rivals defeated and humiliated. I hope I am wiser now and see that love is above all things, even in the world of sports. But, we make mistakes. We don’t always love the right things. We trust that Jesus shows us the way to love more fully our sporting enemy.
Truly, these three things are the most important in sports: competition, fair play, and love of all. The greatest of these is indeed love.