During a recent hot yoga class, my instructor basically told me that I was doing really well, but I needed to get rid of the "game face." Now I have always been a pretty competitive person. I played baseball in high school, I might be a little intense when playing Settlers of Catan and, apparently, I can't even do yoga without finding some way to compete. I mean who could blame me for wanting to hold the the best darnGarurasana in the class? Apparently there is no such thing as competitive yoga at my studio, no score keeping and I guess I will not be getting a trophy at the end of my time for bending myself into a donut.
Sheesh, don't they know that America is fueled by competition?
With all due respect to my President's recent call for America to "win the future," while this might be a media-worthy rallying cry for our corporate national life, when the church engages in this kind of thinking, we get into trouble. When American culture talks about winning, it's not solely about being the best at something, but also about being recognized and honored as the best. We stand on the top step of the podium, we declare victory on election night and we hoist the spoils of championships over our heads while singing Queen's "We are the champions!" All the while we look down on the sad sap who came in third, we mock the candidate as he tastes defeat and we take an sick pleasure in visiting the losing team's locker room hoping for that "sore loser" sound byte. American competition is, at it's best, motivating and inspirational and, at its worst, demoralizing and destructive.
Whatever the case, an American understanding of competition has no place in the life of the church. Our "reward" for following Christ's call on our lives is most often not about winning or coming in first, but by simply knowing that, at the depths of our souls, we are doing what God intends. There will be times when our theological beliefs or positions may indeed "win" within ecclesiastical or political arenas, but our challenge is to be faithful to God's calling even if it means the "podium" is a mile away, we aren't even listed on the ballot or the only thing we raise above our heads are prayers of frustration because our voice is not heard. Ultimately, if the church places competition and winning before community, we begin to see others as less-than, unworthy of acknowledgement and, in essence, a failure at being a child of God. And when we can look at someone as not created equally, we can then oppress, marginalize and ignore all in the name of the church . . . a church that somehow is made up of "winners."
Now I am in no way saying that we should stop trying to do well or to seek excellence in the church. All I am saying is that the driving force behind the life of the church must not be one based on winning, recognition or the "reward" at the end of the day. What should drive our life as the church is the knowledge and belief that God has already rewarded us with the very breath we breathe in the morning, the wonder of creation around us and the promise of life everlasting in Christ.
So win, lose or come in dead last, Jesus couldn't really care less.
Just be faithful.
Just be faithful.
Just be faithful.
AN INVITATION: This post has been cross-posted on my three blogs so I would invite you to join the conversation within any/all of these different communities: My Personal Blog, SF Gate and/or The Huffington Post.