Last thoughts on competition. How do we overcome that knee-jerk reaction to protect ourselves and our families through competition? Honestly, I don’t have a very good answer for that. I know that the choice to walk away from competition is ours to make. And I also know that competition in my life began to wane when I discovered the fact that God’s love is unconditional (in other words, God accepts me regardless of my performance). When I discovered I didn’t have to perform, I stopped competing as well. Now, well-meaning people will tell you that when you live in the real world, God may be gracious…but others are not. True. And no one will fault you for adapting your lifestyle to reflect that somber fact. Of course, maybe a little naiveté is in order. But I think the Apostle Paul has got my back here.
As I said the first post, we often quote Paul’s “race” passages: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2; 5:7, and Hebrews 12:1. They’re all there. So are the “good soldier” passages. But sometimes we become fixated on a particular image and have trouble balancing it against other passages that are just as relevant to our situation. For example, there are other “running” passages in the Bible. The father ran up the road to give the prodigal son forgiveness and grace in Luke 15. Psalm 23:6 says that God’s love and mercy chase after us our entire lives (The Message).
But for all the talk of running and races, the Apostle Paul spends more time talking about something else: walking. He tells us to walk worthy of our calling. To walk in the light. To walk in the Spirit (Eph 4:1-3; 5:2,8,15). Now, walking is different from running and competing. Walking is a slower, more methodical endeavor. It still has the same purposefulness – you’re still going somewhere. But when you walk you have time to take in what you see. You have time to invite others to walk with you. You may even hold another’s hand as you walk. You’re going somewhere, but it has a recreational feel to it. It’s social. It’s inclusive. And everyone gets to cross the finish line…holding hands if they want to. You see, when you competitively race, you so busy trying to beat a time or make to the finish line that you forget the journey. But when you walk, you’re okay with letting others pass you simply because their decision to race doesn’t affect the fact that you get to cross the finish line, too.
Christianity is a lot like that – as Eugene Peterson puts it: a long obedience in the same direction. The goal is not to win. The goal is to enjoy the journey with God. That involves laying down competition. More importantly, it involves laying down the fear that others will pass you along the road. So what if they do? We can rest confidently in the God that doesn’t forsake us along the way.
After all, in an effort to compete, we may have run past God anyway…