This is a very important question for every sports minister and athlete to ask.
If competition only came after the Fall in Genesis 3, then as followers of Christ we should move people out of competition and sports rather than into them. Jesus Christ came to overcome all of the corruption from the Fall. If competition is a part of this corruption, then, in our work as fellow laborers with Christ to build the kingdom of God, we should work to eliminate, not encourage competition. However, if there was competition in the Garden, then the Fall didn’t bring competition into existence, it only corrupted it. Our work would then be to overcome the corruption and restore competition to the original design, not to eliminate it.
To answer the question, we need first to define what we are looking for in the Garden. The word competition comes from the Latin word competere, which means to seek or strive together. In our culture, we typically think of competition as striving against. In our search, we will look for the first idea – striving together.
I find at least two places in Genesis 1 & 2 where this striving together, this competition takes place. The first comes in Genesis 1:28 where God says to Adam & Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” These verses have been referred to as the Cultural or Dominion Mandate.
Have you ever asked, “What was to subdue if the world was perfect?” While there was no sin, that doesn’t mean the world was complete. It was raw, wild and chaotic outside the Garden. No music, no art, no inventions yet. Just raw material. Adam and Eve were to subdue this rawness, this chaos. To exercise dominion meant that they were to “manage whatever facets of creation God places before them….The Great King has summoned us (them and) each of us into his throne room. ‘Take this portion of my kingdom,’ he says. ‘Put your heart into mastering this part of the world. Get it in order, unearth its treasures; do all you can with it.’” From the Garden and into the chaotic world around it, Adam & Eve were to bring order from chaos, a non-conforming world to conformity to God’s purposes, and treasures from the raw material in creation – including themselves.
Notice, this command was given to both of them. They were to unearth treasures together just as they were to multiply together. This required cooperation, a striving together toward this end. Here we see competition. As they strived together, each one brought out more of the image of God in them.
I can imagine one day Adam says, “Eve, would you toss me an orange.” Now Eve had never tossed before but she picks up the orange, reflects for a moment and throws it. It is a little high and Adam has to jump up from his seat to catch it. He has never jumped but reflexively does so. “Hey that was fun. Do it again only higher,” Adam says. Eve picks up another oranges, thinks for a moment and throws it higher. Adam has to really jump but stretches out and catches it. On and on it goes with lots of laughter.
Do you see what is happening there? More of the “treasure” within them is being unearthed. Adam’s ability to jump and Eve’s ability to calculate angle, velocity, distance for a perfect throw are coming out. Can you sense the joy? The fun? Can you taste this original game? And in the process, God is glorified. His image, Adam & Eve, are showing off more and more of the “glory” given them.
You may respond, “But that isn’t there in Genesis. There is no tossing, no “original corn-hole game”. It doesn’t say there is but I can’t help but think this happened because of the second place I find competition in Genesis 1 & 2.
Genesis 1:26, 27 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them.” God is speaking to someone here. Who is it? Whoever it is shares creative power (us make) and image (our image). It doesn’t say, “Let us make man in my image.” or “Let me make man in our image.” There is an “US”. But then it says, “So God created.” Not “they created”. A ONE. An US and a ONE. Seems confusing.
Most of us, because of our background, immediately explain, “Well that is the Trinity. One but three. The Father is talking to the Son and the Spirit.” We need to remember that this idea of the Trinity or the Godhead was veiled in the Old Testament. It is there but hard to see. The coming of the Son lifted the veil. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,2, 14)
Yet much of the wrestling with Christianity has come over this issue of the deity of Christ and understanding of the Godhead, this Trinity. How can one be three? Without a hierarchy? Equal but distinct? How do they relate to each other? We wrestle with this great mystery to this day.
In the second and third century, the early Church Fathers looked to explain this mystery. They came up with the word perichoresis to describe the dynamic between the Godhead. Perichoresis means to dance around. “”Each of the divine persons centers on the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love.” 
The Godhead dancing. Ever thought about that? C.S Lewis adds, “In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing – not even just a person – but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.” 
For us dance is choreographed movement typically to music. Play is choreographed movement without music. Could we even think of this as THE ORIGINAL TEAM, the Godhead, playing? Creation was the result of the Godhead dancing, may we say even playing!
If Adam and Eve were made in this image, would play have been a part of their lives? Absolutely!!!!
Lewis asks, “And, now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way around) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in the dance.”
Look around us and, without a doubt we are a long way from that original dance, that original play. But if we don’t have this picture clear in our mind, if we don’t taste of this joy and fun, and the glory it gives to God, then when we attempt to take our place in the dance and ask, “What does Christian competition look like?”, we find that it is like trying to restore a pile of metal into a ’57 Chevy , but we have never seen one! We would be lost and confused.
To clear up the confusion, we need that picture. We need to study it, to think about it, to envision it, to feel something of what it was like. We need to “get back to the Garden.”
For further development and understanding of these ideas, check out For the Love of the Game.
 Richard Pratt, Designed for Dignity, p. 34, 35.
 Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (Penguin Group, 2008), p 215.
 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Simon & Schuster, 1980), p. 152.