Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The greatest Rugby, Football, Tennis or Surfing tournament of all time

It can be confusing to distill long-term best practices that span the Old and New testaments without a clear understanding of God’s plan and Christ’s role in both. I would like to present an analogy that at the highest level helps us understand the confusion, and on a specific point, should make it clear that war is almost never an option for a follower of Christ. We’re going to build a simple sports allegory that starts when we imagine bleachers filled with the fans of opposing teams facing each other with the sport of your choice taking place on the field in the middle (yes I know that surfing is not traditionally played on a game field, but it happens to be my sport of choice, and after all this is a supernatural analogy:)

In the tradition of dynamic team names, let’s call one crowd the 'Saints' and the other side the 'Demons'. Both sets of fans include full-blown believers, some that would claim to be fanatics, and some that are just along for the beer. The fans are attending the last game of an extremely prolonged tournament (about 2000 years), they have turned over many times through the centuries, they usually pull for their parents’ team, and have found that they have a better chance at season tickets this way.

The Saints have had a number of extremely talented team captains over the years by the names of Abraham, Moses, and David and others that seemed to struggle to keep the Saints in the tournament including Jonah, Sampson, and Elon. Overall, the scores had never been all that close as the Saint’s owner/coach was undeniably brilliant. However, the Demons built quite a following and their colorful antics made them the hands down favorites of the media.

We join the tournament in the final moments of the final game in the spring of 30AD as the Saints current captain (who happened to be the son of the team owner) was providing the final pep talk in the final huddle. The outcome appeared absolutely certain, the Saints should clearly win hands down, but the Captain had to lay out the last play.

'Boys' he said (very few women played in the Universal League at this time in history although Mary, Rehab, and Ester had staring roles in previous games). 'Remember all the tough rules that Dad has laid down over the years? Telling you to kill the other team, to take no prisoners, to get to bed early, to avoid fast cars and unsaturated fats? In a couple of minutes we are going to win this tournament in a decisive all-or-nothing play. When I run the ball over the goal (substitute your sport’s winning play here) it will all be over. We will have done what the rules were designed to accomplish, and quite frankly I’m planning on staying up late from time to time!'

The team cheered, completed the play in record time, and then it was over. The Saints had won by a landslide. In fact, the outcome was so decisive that it was clear there was no reason for the teams to consider future tournaments. It was finished.

But in a move that was uncharacteristic of most team captains, JC (the Saints’ captain was know by his initials) gathered his team together and said, 'I know you’re excited, but let’s hold the celebration off a little while longer. Dad and I are throwing a big, big party at his house tonight, and of course you are all invited. But I need you to do me a favor and go get the invitations out. Not just Saints fans, there are plenty of Demon fans and others outside of the stadium who would really enjoy the party if you only invite them. I’ve got to run and set things up with Dad, so I’m depending on you to get the message out.'

Although a bit disappointed to have to put the celebration on hold and some did not want to go near the Demons’ fans, a few did as told and their descendants have been asking fans to come to the big party ever since.

Did the analogy make sense considering the time scale was in millennia not hours, the final game was nearly 2000 years ago, and the big party is due any time now? The key to everything was the coach’s original instructions to the players. During tournaments, coaches put difficult rules in place, they do not tolerate derision, and they do not need to explain their reasoning. In this case, winning was truly an all or nothing proposition and even if everything was going their way a great coach would not change rules mid-tournament to avoid confusion that could lead to future failures. Considering that games are modeled after war, it’s no surprise that the same rules hold true in war, and of course our imaginary tournament was an analogy of the greatest war of all time between God and Satan, between good and evil.

And just as with games, when the war is over, the team/army gets to 'stand down' and severe measures are no longer necessary. In fact, if continued they would further alienate the former enemy during the time that we need to rebuild our relationship.

From the big picture it’s simple. The battle is over. God won when Jesus crossed the finish line. Old Testament laws no longer have context and Jesus has told us to reach out to those that are not committed to the Saints. He’s spent 2000 years waiting on his team to get the word out, and even in millennial time frames, we are almost out of time. In context, there is no conflict between the testaments at all; we simply live in a different time.

At the micro level, Jesus told us over and over to be peacemakers and we simply have no instructions from our captain to pursue war. Going back to the analogy, the tournament is over and the remaining ‘tournaments’ are not of this world... they are Spiritual, not physical and best summed up in Ephesians 6:12 'We are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.'

It is possible there are exceptions with World War Two standing out as a possible sacrifice where many had to give their lives to save others. However, based on Jesus’ teachings, the vast majority of wars before or after cannot be justified, and we need to put our war oriented energy into Spiritual warfare that is well outlined in Ephesians.

While we are at it, let’s make sure we all are working off the rest of JC’s current playbook:
• Put God first to know what you need to do.
• Put others before yourself to get the opportunity to help them.
• Help others asking nothing in return to avoid the appearance that you are trying to get something.
• Let them know that God loves them so they will understand your motivation.
• If they want to learn more, be ready to teach.

Don’t forget to spend time with the 'team' because together, you have supernatural abilities to help others that you don’t have by yourself.

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