Yesterday NC State shutout UNC in football. Ahhh, that felt good. Five in a row. One for the thumb. I’ll be wearing red all week. But that’s not the point of this post.
Our win, or the celebration of it rather, did get me thinking yesterday. I would have loved being there in the middle of the sea of red, in fact after texting with multiple people who were in Raleigh all afternoon, I then talked with one friend on the phone and loved listening to her recount the big plays and what happened all around her as we reveled in victory. What I started to think about as I watched the end of the game and saw everyone going crazy was how different all these people must be. 58,000 or so people all coming from different walks of life, different believe systems, different philosophies on work/family/society, all celebrating a victory together as if they had no problem or difference with anyone there.
I don’t want to be cliche here and draw yet another sports/fan/unity parallel between a team and the church, but that’s kind of what I’m going to do. Hear me out though.
Its been kind of a tough week for me, several situations have made me feel more like I’m in battle against other Christians than against the powers of darkness. Several situations have left me feeling hemmed in and ready to be done with Christians. Its been kind of a “why on earth do I live in America with all these spoiled people/why am I a spoiled American?” type week.
Stuff like – This conference is better than that one. I don’t approve of an organizational decision. This church/group/ministry is better. Why don’t you do that thing like those people? blah blah blah…
I’ll be honest. I’ve got a lot of issues. I’ve seen a lot of sin in myself this week. I care deeply about whether other people approve of what I’m doing or think I’m living as fully as possible for Christ. Too deeply.
But I’ve come this week to hate how often I feel like I’m in competition with other believers, or like I’m trying to measure up before them. We are all on the same team. Jesus prayed for our unity and said that’s how a hurting world would see Him, by how much Christians love each other (John13:34-35). And yet my desire is often not to love other Christians but to know if people are in the right theological camp before I accept them, I want to be a part of the better ministry/church/anything. I want to be right and I want to win.
But the ultimate victory has already been won.
And that victory should be big enough to move us past our petty differences and celebrate what He has done. Not unlike people who live wildly different lives through the week and high five strangers like they’re the best of friends on Saturday, shouldn’t we live in praise of His glorious grace instead of competing over who’s music is better and criticize people on our own team? Shouldn’t we take all the energy we spend on ridiculing other Christians and spend it loving a dying world? I confess that I get more angry at Christians who I don’t think are doing things right than at my own sin. I get more worked up over consumer Christians than the fact that people are walking all around me who don’t know Jesus. Can we all just refocus on the mission here? Can we all just get off each others’ cases and celebrate the victory over death that we’ve been given?
Yes, I know there is heresy that needs to be called out. Yes there are closed handed issues. Yes theology should be accurate and we should be true to scripture. BUT, in the words of my friends the Black Eyed Peas, where is the love? Where is the spirit of “I don’t care who you are we just beat Carolina, give me a hug!!”? People at the game weren’t picking fights over differences in celebration, they were just pumped to be witnessing it all. How much more has sin and death been beaten for all of us? How much more are we watching the God of the universe work wondrously in peoples’ lives?
Then at church today, this idea is exactly where our study in Ephesians lead us and our pastor preached on some of the exact same thoughts I’d been having. Holy Spirit, thanks for making it obvious that you’d like to grow me here, you know I’m not good at subtlety. So I’ll leave you with this question, that I’m trying to answer for myself: Do I want to be known for being smart, capable, cool, effective, right… or for being loving?