Most of us like to win.
It satisfies our egos. It makes us feel slightly superior to others. Or smarter. Or more attractive.
And of course, in many respects, our whole economic system is predicated on there being “winners” and “losers,” is built upon the idea that life is one giant competition — and the object is to “win.” That object is to achieve the most, produce the most, get the most. This competition can have some truly positive effects: innovation and lower prices to name two of the most obvious.
But it can also have negative consequences too.
We hear in scripture: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Here we see Jesus once again saying things that most of us simply don’t like. He tells us to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, give away our possessions, be the servant of all, the first shall be last and so on.
The reason is simple. Most of us see ourselves in the first half of that verse, not the second part. We see ourselves as people trying to find our lives (that is, take care of ourselves before all else), rather than see ourselves as people losing our lives for Jesus (by losing our lives for others).
But I know what I do whenever I hear really challenging things in sacred scripture I move on. It just seems too difficult, too inconvenient, and too unattractive. I’d much rather “tame” Jesus. I’d rather try to water-down his message, reduce it to something that doesn’t demand much from me such as “Be nice.”
But did Jesus really die just to show us how to be nice?
We forget that the first disciples were seen as living a radical sort of life, a life that looked a lot different from the lives of others. People saw a community who forgave all who wronged them, never seeking revenge. They saw a community who shared everything and who worked together for the good of all.
They saw a community of love and peace — not violence. And they saw a community full of hope. That hope allowed them to remain faithful, as best they knew how, in the face of ridicule and suspicion and danger. Those first believers seemed to embrace the Gospel message in the fullest way possible.
Do we still want the same? Are we willing to do the same? Do we still have that kind of passion, commitment? Are we still on fire for Jesus? For that matter, were we ever?
To live for others and not for ourselves is not easy — it takes deep faith and perseverance. It’s hard work. We need to be transformed and allow the Holy Spirit create us anew, transforming our self-centeredness into other-centeredness. We need to turn our need to acquire into a need to give, our need to “win” into a need to “lose” ... lose ourselves for each and every person who needs a little kindness, a little mercy, a little love.
That’s God’s way. And that means it’s the very best way. It’s the best for others, best for ourselves and for the world.
This day and each day forward, may we believe more deeply in the challenging words of Jesus. We might just find what we’re looking for.