Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beyond Competition

I court disaster when I preach. My mental manuscript is often more than a bit disorganized and that was the case this morning. In preparing for this morning I had not only read commentaries but also was reading a book by James Alison, Jesus the Forgiving Victim. I have read a lot of Alison's books and essays and find that he helps open up the Scripture for me. A central point in this book is that in Jesus we meet One who is not bound up in rivalry with us or with the Father, One who occupied the place of shame, One who forgives us and invites us into the Father's heart. With the Parable of the Sower as the Gospel text (Matthew 13) and Paul writing about living in the Spirit as the Epistle (Romans 8),  I thought I had a good chance of making the point that life in Christ was life without rivalry.
Courting disaster also means being open to small miracles. Today that involved my remembering what I saw on the television after the World Cup game in which Germany defeated Brazil. There on the field players could be seen hugging players from the other team. There one could see that the players had moved beyond competition, that the competition of the game had not bound them up in rivalry. It was, as I shared the story this morning, a glimpse of what life in Christ can be. Life in which competition - business competition, political competition, the competition of ideas - does not control us. Life in which we can look at our competitors with love.

My friend and professor Milton Mayer told a story about a Quaker meeting for worship during Word War II. Present at the meeting was the activist clergyman A.J. Muste who stood up to speak. What he said shocked Milton - "If I can't love Hitler I can's love anyone." - and Milton wanted to stand up and argue with Muste. However Milton knew that would be a violation of the norms of Quaker worship and  he sat quietly with Muste's statement, allowing it to challenge him. Can we begin to see the possibility of loving Hitler, of wanting for him, not what Hitler wanted for himself, but the human flourishing that God wants? Can we condemn his words and actions and still want what is best for him? 

I hope we are growing into that possibility.   

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