Football and the Warrior Instinct

One of the last things we need is for young men to think that masculinity is defined by tackles and touchdowns. That would be bad. But it would also be bad if the world were bleached of tackles and touchdowns. Why? Because while "warrior culture" is dangerous, warrior instinct is endangered, and football stands as one of the last bastions of its enduring good.

What Is Warrior Instinct?

Undivided, straightforward, sacrificial focus for good. That is what I mean by warrior instinct. It's a summary of the character Paul refers to beginning in 2 Timothy 2:3 -- the character of a "good soldier of Christ Jesus." Elaborating on the solider metaphor, Paul tells Timothy, "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." Get this: Paul, the experienced missionary, encourages Timothy, the young pastor, with the example of a warrior. What exactly is that example? It's focus. Warriors don't get distracted. They don't get caught up with the wrong things. They are clear about their aim. Life and death are on the line.

Okay, you might be thinking, but what’s war have to do with football? Well, actually, war and football (sports in general) have some deep connections.

Paul himself sees a connection as he continues his exhortation to Timothy. After the example of the soldier, Paul moves on to the example of an athlete with the same kind of commendation (2 Timothy 2:5). If the soldier fights with focus, the athlete only wins if he plays by the rules. Both of these examples, along with the painstaking work of a farmer, represent the character that Paul says Timothy should emulate.

We shouldn't see these as three unrelated illustrations, but as one total, connected picture of what it means to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus. In a similar way, Doug Wilson notes that all the "overwhelmingly positive" metaphors of sports and war in the Bible point to the same characteristics of "discipline, sacrifice, hard work, focus, intensity, and so on" ("Empire, Sports, and War," 292).

This passage in 2 Timothy, serving as a sort of snapshot of these combined metaphors, can be summed up as undivided, straightforward, sacrificial focus for good -- what I'm calling warrior instinct.

Why We Need It

We need this warrior instinct more than ever because it's increasingly rare in our society. We don't have to look far to see that the ambition for an undivided, straightforward, sacrificial focus has been compromised by a distracted, weaselly, self-obsessed directionless. The studies are out and the articles have been written.

[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]