And yet there is a form of tennis, Real Tennis, which pre-dates Wimbledon by 800 years and was originally played in the monasteries of France in the 12th century. The name real is actually a mistaken spelling of the word royal because of its popularity with the kings of Europe, sometimes with unfortunate results.
For instance, Louis X of France drank too much water after a game in 1316, caught a chill and died. Charles VIII died after hitting his head on the lintel of the tennis court, while James I of Scotland failed in his attempt to escape from his murderers because the drain he was crawling down was blocked – by tennis balls. All of which illustrates the potential risk that playing sport can involve.
And the same is true for Real Christianity because in contrast to the anaemic distortions of the soap operas and the trivialising gossip in the tabloids, the real Christian knows that his faith is the most demanding, challenging and life-changing thing in the world – something which requires not occasional interest, but passionate conviction.
That is something which the former tennis commentator Gerald Williams discovered when his mother and elder brother died and his second marriage collapsed. “Had anyone asked me, I would have said that I was a Christian, but my form of Christianity couldn’t cope with such problems.” In anger and despair, Gerry cried to God: “If you are real, please help me.”
Over several months, God answered that prayer so he could say: “God has completely changed my life by taking me out of empty religious ritual into a vital personal friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.” For as St. Paul wrote: “When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Surely, that is why a former Wimbledon Champion Stan Smith could say: “Everyone wants to find a meaning in life, a happiness he knows is real. Well, he can find it if he looks to Christ.”
For Jesus said: “I am the way, the Truth and the Life” and “I have come so that you might have life in all its fullness” and “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.” (John 14:6; 10:10; 6:37)
So to adapt a well-known slogan, we need not only to ’Believe in Better’ but to ‘Believe in Real’ because real Christianity is so much better than what we often imagine Christianity to be.
Therefore, ‘Anyone for tennis?’ Perhaps.
‘Anyone for Christ?’ Definitely.
With best wishes, Charles Jefferson