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"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

Respect authority

1 Peter 2:13-14. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

Someone once said that the only biblical reference to the referee or umpire is "the man born blind"! As the Bible doesn't offer any direct application to referees, we need to look for relevant Biblical principles.

Today's verse gives us a new perspective. Our motivation in how we relate to the officials is that we are doing it for the Lord's sake. We may have suffered a great injustice; we may feel that the officials are allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by the opposition, we may thing the officials are weak. We are, however, to submit to them for the Lord's sake.

The "audience of one" principle is our touchstone. Of course, we are to play for the team and the coach but above all we are to realize that the game is part of our Christian life and we are doing it to please God. Our interaction with the officials is part of that.

Dissent is a big problem in modern sport. When an incident occurs in a game there is a moment when an appeal can be made to the official. "Our ball", "She was holding my shirt". This opportunity lasts for a second or two.

Dissent takes place after the official has made the decision. It is a negative response to the decision - "are you blind ref", "you can not be serious".

For the Christian player, an appeal is perfectly acceptable but perhaps dissent has "crossed the line". Society now accepts dissent as part and parcel of life and the game but this really is an area in which the Christian sportsperson can be different.

Stuart Weir

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