Thinking Beyond Wimbledon
It seems strange that Wimbledon will not be able to be viewed either live or from our homes this year. Only last year, on the opening day of the tournament, a talented teenager by the name of Cori Kauff gained victory over her opponent and heroine Venus Williams in an entertaining match that brought out the best of both youth and experience. Kauff maintained remarkable composure, brilliant shot selection and high- top spin shots that the crowd marvelled at. She may even go on to win the tournament next year and not only live her dreams but continue fulfilling them. Wimbledon is the pinnacle of tennis tournaments but what continues when the tournament is put on hold and what endures beyond Wimbledon?
Getting the serves in
It is fascinating how sporting terminology appears in our vocabulary. If the ball lands outside the service box on the second serve, then the point is lost and is irretrievable.
Similarly, the term ‘sin’ is an archery term meaning ‘missing the mark’. The archer completely misses the board and the arrow drops short. It is embarrassing! It is equivalent to ‘throwing a brick’ in basketball when the ball misses the ring and the board and seems to hang in the air for ages and lands clumsily. The player secretly wishes they had not taken the shot and could press pause; but once the shot has been taken it cannot be recovered. Irrespective of a player’s ranking, they can never attain a perfect unblemished record and will inevitably lose points and possibly games, sets and matches. No one is perfect and in this sense the playing field is levelled. Similarly, we can often ‘miss the mark’ in our general efforts to be successful in life. This ‘missing the mark’ is what the sacred Scriptures called the Bible describes as sin, teaching that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Playing by the Rules
Anyone who competes at tennis must do so within the rules. The game is codified, there is a scoreboard, Hawk-Eye and ultimately an Umpire, who makes the final judgement and whose decision is the last call.
The Creator God gave the children of Israel the Torah (Law) and the Ten Commandments. The law is akin to a mirror and shows everyone how they have fallen short. Sin also contains the meaning of lawlessness or more simply breaking God’s law. It is natural to think that we are doing pretty well if we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others that might not have lived up to ‘our standards’. However the Bible teaches us that those who have broken one law are guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10.) It is like a chain lock for a bicycle. Only one link in the chain needs to be broken and the whole chain is broken. This is an analogy that shows us the need for humility and to seek God’s forgiveness.
The scoreboard tells the story of the match for better or worse. If we do not like it, we cannot simply protest and erase it! Similarly, the Bible teaches that we will have to give an account for everything we say and do. Hawk-Eye is useful for making the close calls that we would like to contest. Ultimately, the God of the Bible is the Umpire and He is the perfect judge and the One whom we will have to give an account of our lives to. One more thing, we cannot use our own rule books for God has revealed how we should live, from the Bible.
Trying to save the match
Part of competing is trying to salvage a point, game, set or a match by making a comeback. Sometimes this is possible on the court and at other times matches seem to run away from us. Even though we can play another match, it will inevitably have no consequence on the previous match other than possibly improving our ranking. We cannot re-write history or cover our mistakes.
Moving up the rankings requires determination, resolve and hard work. Similarly, in needing forgiveness of our sins, we cannot rescue ourselves and no amount of works regardless of sacrifice, quantity of quality of effort or performance can rescue us. An early follower of Jesus, Paul wrote to the people of Ephesus “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, the Bible)
‘Love’ is a unique term that is present in every single game, set and match of tennis ever played. The love of God is absolutely central to the Gospel (message of good news). In fact, by definition God is love (1 John 4:8). God is holy (1 Peter 1:16) and the righteous judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25), so He must deal with sin, though He has provided a means by which we may be forgiven.
A righteous judge could not simply give someone a pardon for a crime committed, since that would violate justice. Astoundingly, a statement in the Bible says this:- God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). There is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13) and that is exactly what God, the Father of creation, did by sending His Son to bear the punishment for our sins that we justly deserved for breaking His law. The good news is that for those who trust in the Lord Jesus, though sin entered through the first human Adam, eternal life comes through the Lord Jesus.
The eternal gospel
Sometimes a Championship match can go on and on and on especially in the closing stages. It seems worth it though, for the prize of winning and having one’s name etched in that golden trophy and enjoying a few moments of adulation from multitudes of admiring onlookers. After the celebrations and needed rest are over, preparations are put in place to defend the title for the following year. The glory is short lived!
In tennis and also in life, everything eventually wears out since it is temporary and transitory. Elite players have a high turnover of racquets and new balls are provided in a single match. Even the grass wears out on Centre Court! When a person repents, (turns from their sin) and trusts in the Lord Jesus they are regenerated spiritually (born again) and they enter into new life.
God’s word is everlasting. ‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:31).’ Similarly, Messiah Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).’