While not a Sabbatarian, and so not too worried about sport on a Sunday, I found this story about Eric Liddell really inspiring. It is told by Randy Alcorn in his book 'The Grace and Truth Paradox'.
Nanci and I spent an unforgettable day in England with Phil and Margaret Holder. Margaret was born in China to missionary parents with the China Inland Mission. In 1939, when Japan took control of eastern China, thirteen-year-old Margaret was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. There she remained, separated from her parents, for six years.
Margaret told us stories about a godly man called "Uncle Eric." He tutored her and was deeply loved by all the children in the camp. We were amazed to discover that "Uncle Eric" was Eric Liddell, "The Flying Scot," hero of the movie Chariots of Fire. Liddell shocked the world by refusing to run the one hundred metres in the 1924 Paris Olympics, a race he was favoured to win. He withdrew because the qualifying heat was on a Sunday.
Liddell won a gold medal - and broke a world record - in the four hundred metres, not his strongest event. Later he went as a missionary to China. When war broke out, he sent his pregnant wife and his daughters to safety. Imprisoned by the Japanese, he never saw his family again. Suffering from a brain tumor, Eric Liddell died in 1945, shortly before his forty-third birthday.
Through fresh tears, Margaret told us, "It was a cold February day when Uncle Eric died."
Alcorn picks up the story of Eric Liddell later in his book.
Remember Margaret Holder, who told us about "Uncle Eric"? She shared another story. The children played basketball, rounders, and hockey. Eric Liddell was their referee. Not surprisingly, he refused to referee on Sundays. But in his absence, the children fought. Liddell struggled over this. He believed he shouldn't stop the children from playing because they needed the diversion.
Finally, Liddell decided to referee on Sundays. This made a deep impression on Margaret - she saw that the athlete world famous for sacrificing success for principle was not a legalist. When it came to his own glory, Liddell would surrender it all rather than run on a Sunday. But when it came to the good of children in a prison camp, he would referee on Sunday.
Liddell would sacrifice a gold medal for himself in the name of truth but would bend over backward for others in the name of grace.