Boozing and playing on a Sunday – the disappointing witness of Ireland rugby star Jacob Stockdale

Standards in the professing church have unquestionably dropped, and indeed have done significantly, in the past number of decades.

Be it the dress adopted by those attending church, the worldly pursuits of professing Christians or even the lowering in the regard for and fear of God, there can really be little argument that the separation between the world and the professing church has greatly diminished.

And to that end, it was with disappointment we read of the comments from Ireland rugby star Jacob Stockdale from an interview in the Presbyterian Herald, some of which was reproduced in the Belfast Telegraph.

Not only was the interview published just after he had played in a Six Nations match against Italy on the Lord’s Day, he also spoke of how he joins his team mates as they get their boozy nights out up and running, even joining in on the consumption of stupefying alcohol.

Further to that, he articulated his opposition to the Scriptural position of separation from sin.

We reaffirm our disappointment with his comments, which is all the more disappointing given the prominent position Jacob Stockdale occupies and the tremendous influence for good he could be were he to take a firm stand.

Rugby is Jacob Stockdale’s occupation and for him to have taken the field last Sunday is a clear breach of the Fourth Commandment.

This is outlined in Exodus 20:8-11, which says: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

There are those who sadly believe today that the Ten Commandments no longer apply, yet this runs contrary to the teaching of Jesus.

Such people quite often use the following passage to justify ignoring the Ten Commandments.

Matthew 22:37-40: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Of course, even this passage clearly demonstrates that such a contention is nonsense, as the closing verse says that those two commandments encapsulate the Ten Commandments.

But we are told in Luke that these two commandments which many modern Christians seem to think are the only rules to govern their lives are “written in the law” and therefore clearly these two commandments are a summary of the Ten Commandments.

Luke 10:25-28 says: “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”

That being the case, it is clear that the Fourth Commandment is still very much applicable.

Jacob Stockdale’s decision, sadly, stands in stark contrast to that of former Scotland rugby player Euan Murray, who came to the realisation that playing on a Sunday was wrong, saying he didn’t believe in “pick ‘n’ mix Christianity”.

In an interview from 2009, Euan Murray said: “It’s basically all or nothing, following Jesus. I don’t believe in pick ‘n’ mix Christianity. I believe the Bible is the word of God, so who am I to ignore something from it?

“I might as well tear out that page then keep tearing out pages as and when it suits me. If I started out like that there would soon be nothing left.”

The views of Euan Murray are absolutely commendable and we would certainly encourage Jacob Stockdale to follow his lead. It is surely highly probable Euan Murray would be happy to advise Jacob Stockdale on the matter.

And the other truly disheartening aspect of this interview given to the Presbyterian Herald was his discussion of his drinking with his team mates, outlining his rejection of separation from sin.

Jacob Stockdale said he is a “firm believer that you can’t completely detach yourself from that culture because it makes it hard to socialise, to interact with your team-mates”.

He continued: “At the end of the day, the guys that I play with are my really close friends, whether they’re Christians or not.

“When you have team socials where there is a lot of drinking involved, you have to balance it; go, maybe have a few drinks but know when to stop drinking and be smart about it in that sense.

“I think it’s detrimental not to go to team socials and to distance yourself from your teammates and colleagues – at the end of the day you’re here to be an evangelist and separating yourself from others doesn’t help.”

Sadly, Jacob Stockdale thinks it is permissible to join in on the worldly activities of his ungodly teammates and it is “detrimental” to be separated from sin.

James 4:4 reminds us that this is a very wrong position to adopt. It says: “… know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

The attitude of Jacob Stockdale is actually putting him at “enmity with God”.

What a sad situation that is.

The perils of alcohol consumption are so clearly and wisely summed up by Solomon.

He says, under the inspiration of God, in Proverbs 23:29-35: “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”

What a folly it is to join in on such a worldly action. We would urge Jacob Stockdale to reconsider his approach to such matters.

It is also sad that the Presbyterian Herald is advertising Jacob Stockdale and his witness as commendable to its readers and to its members

Jacob Stockdale is a major figure, and is considered among the very finest players in the entire world, something which makes him a role model to many young Christians and aspiring rugby players.

The Presbyterian Church should be playing no part in promoting working on a Sunday and joining with the world in its ungodly activities.

According to the report, Jacob Stockdale is linked with the “Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church”, which would appear to be located in Dromore, County Down.

This church should be taking a stand against the actions and comments of Jacob Stockdale, but it does not appear that is the case.

Sadly, this is an example of the decline in the stand of the professing church in Ulster.

The story of Jacob Stockdale, whose rugby exploits will matter not one jot in eternity, will sadly be one of missed opportunity if he continues to forget the sabbath day to keep it holy and indulge in imbibing alcohol so as to fit in with his ungodly teammates.

We urge Jacob Stockdale, in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour, to “consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5) and take what would prove to be a mighty stand for God.

Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

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