We live in a culture that is not only fascinated with sports, but driven by the competitive drive they require. Perhaps it’s always been this way. Perhaps man has always tried to best his fellow man, and perhaps that’s where war began. Did we really want the other fellow’s land, or did we just want to show him we could take it if we wanted to?
Either way, the point is that we are competitive beings, and we thrive on it. We determine not only who gets what by competition, but actually decide who is valued and how they rank in their society. There are, after all, winners and losers, with systems put in place to first establish the competition and then judge it.
Religion is no less derived. Each religion has its proponents, from casual to radical, with each claiming the elusive answers we all seek, albeit Truth. Christianity supports its claim to rightness with the same, if not greater competitive spirit as the Muslims or any other. Christianity has Jesus, and Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Game over. Because I said so.
So now we have Team Jesus vs Team Allah vs Team Buddah, etc. Each has its books, its prophets, and its history of wars. They are each very competitive, even the ones that claim a disdain for competition. Those just compete with vigorous passive-aggressiveness, but the spirit of winning betrays them all the same.
This is the problem with religion. It wants to win. It has to win to prove it is right, and thereby justify the control and power it wields over the people. It has been said, and I think rightly so, that “religion is man’s attempt to control God.” If we can somehow force God to do what we want, then we have what we want, and we become gods, at least by our own definition. The ‘real’ God, God Almighty, cannot be controlled by man, no matter how man tries to make it so. God Almighty simply IS, and that’s the real EndGame, and many don’t like it so they refuse to admit it. After all, it’s more fun to deceive oneself into thinking that oneself is in control.
Connecting the idea of competition to the idea of religion reveals a great deal about what’s going on here on planet Earth. Since man wants to win, being a part of his DNA, he naturally connects that to his religion, each reinforcing the other. Constantine used this to his advantage with his “convert of die” form of evangelism. He may not have been getting the hearts converted, but he sure got the mouths saying what he wanted to hear. Islam today seems to be promoting this more and more. They’ve looked at history and seen what works. Be Muslim or risk death. Compelling. And very effective form of competitive strategy, at least to get voiced converts.
Here in America we’ve seen the rise of one Christian denomination after another, as people seem to move from one fascination to another, from one church to another, always looking for the “right” one, the “best” one, even the one that is “for me.” Competitive? Absolutely. Just look at the way churches are promoted. One has the best preacher, another the best worship, another the best community service, and still another the best missions program. One has the miracles flowing and another has care for the poor through service projects. One has the best youth ministry while another has the Senior luncheons for the community. Add dramas, Sunday schools, para-church support groups, traveling bands and night clubs. Put the hymn books in every pew, then take them out and put up the big screen. Put a Bible in every pew, then take them out and project the Scripture on IPads for every worshipper.
I could go on, but I think you get the gist of the competitive nature of the church in America, the Christian church. We’re right, and we know we’re right. We have the Bible to prove we’re right. And we have the Spirit to confirm we are right. “I know that I know, because I know it in my ‘knower.’”
Should there really be a Team Jesus? Do we have any basis for such? Here’s where another distortion of our competitive nature raises up, as we use the Holy Scriptures to prove our point. Men and women with advanced degrees piled up behind their names, theologians and academics and believers alike, all using the same Bible, quoting the same verses, with often vastly different conclusions. Oh, and don’t forget those who have actually translated the texts themselves, having learned the “original” languages of the Scripture, and having studied all the historical, geographical, meteorological and hysterical sciences to arrive at the ‘real’ truth. No competition here, is there?
I don’t think there should be a Team Jesus, but I can’t get away from it. Even writing this makes me a bit competitive, because I too want to get it right. I do think, however, that Jesus would not join the Team Jesus team. I don’t see Him being competitive. I don’t see Him having to win. I don’t ever see Him wanting to fight, much less kill another. Even the turning over of the tables in His anger about the moneychangers had no sense of winning about it. He just did it.
He didn’t recruit Disciples to go fight, but to go serve. He didn’t tell His followers to win, but to love. He didn’t empower His followers to go kill other people, but rather to go overpower the devil, His only “enemy,” and one that even He didn’t seem to worry about very much. His confidence was Supreme, because He is Supreme. He doesn’t have to fight to win, because He IS the victory.
We don’t need Team Jesus, we need Jesus. We don’t need to compete with other religions, we need to lay down the narcotic of power and winning, and pick up the One Who loves us and IS Love. We don’t need to convince people that our way of running the church is the best way, only that this is the way we are led to do it. Come and be a part of Him with us, or don’t. Let others join together as they wish, and let the Lord God Almighty sort it out. I read that it’s His Church, after all, and that He knows what He’s doing.
“But what about the Great Commission” you may ask? It would appear that Jesus Himself told His followers to go out there and “make disciples.” Isn’t that the same as “winning converts”? Only if you’ve bought into the Team Jesus model of evangelism. Only if you think every other person out there who sees the world differently than you is somehow not only defective, but just wrong. And you’ve come along to set them straight.
Here’s what I do know. I do know that Jesus Christ does a better job of leading my life than I do by myself. I’ve proved that over and over. I still have to prove it, every day. He’s not building a Team, He is welcoming people into a kingdom; His Kingdom. There is no competition with a king, is there? Call it surrender, or servitude, or submission, or how about humility? King Jesus provides for His folks. King Jesus feeds them, leads them, and rests them. He is the King, and we are His followers, which chafes against the competitive spirit. It is not Team Jesus, it is King Jesus. What wonderful relief!!!! Knowing that the King has come, and that He is in charge.
So “What about all these other religions?” you may ask. Or, along with that, “Isn’t our’s the right one?” or “Isn’t Christianity the truth?”
I believe, and I only ask that you seek to know it as well, that the answer isn’t religion, but Jesus Christ. It isn’t Christianity, it is Jesus Christ. It isn’t your denomination or mine, it is Jesus Christ. We should not be praying to win, but to know Him. We should not be trying to overpower others, to get our way, but to know Him and follow His Way. It’s about Him.