A pastor recently came out with a book called, Not in It to Win It. As an overly competitive former fighter pilot, I was taken aback by that title and the intent behind it. I confess I like winning, and I would guess that some of you reading this do too.
The pastor states, “…the church is not here to win. By every human measure, our Savior lost. On purpose. With a purpose. And we are His body.” And He calls us to walk in His footsteps.
Rather than calling us to win something, He has called to love someone, actually everyone, not just the loveable or those of the same ____ (fill in the blank) as we are
(1 John 4:11, 20-21). Christ served the ones the world and the church deemed unworthy and died for the “powerless” and “ungodly” (Romans 5:6). God demonstrated His love for us by having His Son die for us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8).
After first loving the Lord our God, Jesus says the next greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). (If you are looking for a get-out-of-this-commandment-free card by claiming the unlovable person you are thinking of is not your neighbor, read Luke 10:25-37.)
In fact, as we saw in 1 John above, God tells us not to say we love Him if we are not willing to love those around us. So, we must ask ourselves, are our actions toward the unlovable demonstrating the unwavering depth of love He lavished undeservingly upon us?
Second Corinthians 5:18-20 states that God through Christ reconciled us to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us. We love this part! But then, it continues that He entrusts to us His message of reconciliation.
John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, recently said that too many believers are more interested in making a point than making an influence. Making a point is often easier, doesn’t typically require listening and today can be accomplished through the safety and distance of social media. Making an influence is often more challenging, requires more time and effort and frequently requires relationship nurtured over time.
God calls us His “ambassadors for Christ” and that God is appealing to a broken world through us to come back into relationship with Him.
Peter says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:14-16).
There is so much in these couple of verses, but I will touch briefly only on four points. First, yes, there will be trouble and it is likely to increase for us as we move forward, but regardless of the difficulties and chaos around us, our sovereign God says throughout Scripture, we do not need to fear (Joshua 1:7-9, John 16:33 and 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 13:6).
Second, Christ has to be set apart above all else in our lives; this includes our career, our passions and our politics.
Third, do people see a hope in us that supersedes our circumstances and the division and acidity permeating our world?
Fourth, are we attacking defensively or offering a defense with gentleness and respect?
Please don’t misunderstand me. We are at war, just not with each other (Ephesians 6:12). And praise God, we don’t have to win the battle. God already has through the death and resurrection of His Son, and by His grace He places us on the Victor’s side. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he said again, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Are we spreading the fragrance of Christ to a dying world, or accentuating the hatred rampant by sin? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
As my pastor said, “True love requires a love for truth.” As 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 states, love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Our Lord’s love was not weak, pointless, or passive; it drove Him to lay down His own self-interests on the cross. This same Lord is now calling us to submit our self-interests and our lives to serving Him and those He has sovereignly placed around us (Philippians 2:3-8).
No matter the odds, let us obey our Lord’s calling with joy, confident that He has already won the victory. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).