Jesus—The Biggest Loser

I love winning. In school or ZZZ or being a Community Leader in Penland, I want to win.  I want to be great at the things I do. My soul thirsts for success. I want to be productive. I want to get out of something what I put into it. I want people to validate the things that I’m doing. I want A’s on the top of the tests that I take. I want my intramural team to take home some hardware.

This carries over into my relationships. Every relationship that I pour into, I want dividends from. I want to see positive change in the people I invest in. I want people to thank me. I want to be loved back. When I get a compliment or a thank you or I see somebody grow, I’m winning.

But here’s what I’m learning as I delve deeper into the story of Jesus.

Following Jesus involves a lot more losing than winning. 

Jesus spent his entire life losing in every earthly way. In terms of his public image, Jesus was always losing. He didn’t write any books. He worked as a humble carpenter. Whenever He garnered a big following, He’d either leave the village or say something weird like “if you want to follow me, drink my blood and eat my flesh.”

Relationally, Jesus also lost. He was always pouring into His disciples, and the return on that investment for much of His life hovered around zero. These people who Jesus loved on weren’t very smart or cool or loyal to the end. It wasn’t a winning team.

Jesus even taught people how to lose. Here are some of his best pointers on losing:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matt. 5:38-42

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Matt. 5:43-44

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matt. 6:19-20

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Mark 5:11

But He saved His greatest loss for last.

Jesus went to the cross alone. Defeat. Humiliation. Death. Pain. He lived a perfect and blameless life and then lost. I know the story doesn’t end there, but it happened. He lost.

Jesus spent his whole life loving on the people group who would end up nailing him to a tree. 

At the center of the Gospel is the paradox of the cross. Yes, chalk the cross up in the loss column. Write a big “L” on the score card. The Son of God came to Earth to redeem mankind and ended up hanging up on a cross, pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.

We forget that He’s our example. He’s our role model. Those who follow Christ are called to lose just like He did. Today. Tomorrow. Every day until Christ who is our life appears, and we will also appear with him in Glory(Col. 3:4), we’re called to lose.

No, the story doesn’t end there. Jesus rose again and defeated the grave, but not until after He lost everything. That’s our Savior and that’s the Gospel. The disciple of Christ gets everything when they give everything up.  The follower of Jesus only wins when he or she loses.

The cross cannot be defeated because it is defeat. — GK Chesterton

How do we lose, though? What does it look like, other than handing our  enemies some nails, a couple of 2X4’s, and laying down? What’s losing our lives for the sake of the Gospel look like at Baylor University, or anywhere other than first century Palestine? Losing isn’t just something we’re called to talk about, so here are some losing strategies that I try (and often fail) to practice:

1. Do the most for the people around you. In order to love recklessly and boldly, not cautiously and thriftily, be willing to lose your time and your money.

2. Don’t ignore the “least of these”. Whether it’s a homeless person or that weird kid in class, lose your pride and love them like Christ loved you.Take what Jesus says about “the least of these” seriously. Lose the fear and the stereotypes.

A New Years Resolution for 2014

It’s the fifth of January. The new year is wearing off. We’re used to putting 14 at the top of our journal, the gyms have started to become less crowded, and Vince is really late on his new years resolution post.

In 2013, most of my new years resolutions happened(Here’s that old post). I only bought clothes at thrift stores, with just a few exceptions. I made a friend who only spoke Spanish, Kevin, my 4 year old amigo at the playground in the projects who I play tag with on Wednesdays. My friends and I made it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and limped across the Bearathon finish line for a dramatic finish.

Mi Amigo Kevin

Mi Amigo Kevin

 

I’m a goal-oriented person. I like to achieve and succeed and do. My second-most-used app on my iphone is a to-do list app ( after snapchat of course). I fill it up the night before with a multitude of tasks. During the day, I slide my index finger across the things that have been completed and get a little buzz of satisfaction when a task disappears from the screen. The list is blank before bed on a good day, and I fill up the next day’s itinerary before my head hits the pillow.

It’d be really easy for me to post a list of goals for 2014. Even on a beach vacation with a whole ocean of reasons to rest and relax in front of me, my mind runs off to make that list. It’s a long list under constant construction; additions and revisions happen daily. If I wrote it down, I’d need a pencil with a lot of lead and a good eraser.It’d be easy to share that list with you, but it’s not what I’m trying to focus on as I head into a new year.

I’m not doing New Years resolutions or goals this year. Call it a boycott. New years resolutions and goals, you accomplish them and they’re done, gone with the wind, a feather in a dusty cap, an old trophy shelved away in a closet.

Viewing life through the lens of the Gospel means that the question “Who am I?” is more important than “What do I do?” The Gospel tells me I can’t do enough good things or not do enough bad things in 2014. I just can’t. I’m not able to. My list can’t be long enough. I can’t cross off enough things on my app. But the Gospel tells me that I am His. God looks at me through the lens of Christ and tells me who I am. He calls me Beloved.

In 2014, God has put a full plate of goals on my heart, goals that I can write on my list, do everything possible to accomplish, and then check off on my i-phone app. This list isn’t bad, not at all. We’re supposed to dream and draw up plans and do. But I don’t want to be a task-master. I don’t want to worship the list and miss what’s more important. I’ve only got one resolution, no, one response, this year, in light of the Gospel.

This past Summer at Kanakuk, Chad, our kamp director, taught us something that really resonated with me. First, he told us about our generation and God’s will. We obsess over it. We try to peer into it. We’re one step short from getting out the tea leaves and the crystal ball. Chad told us that Scripture is pretty silent on God’s explicit will for our lives. It doesn’t tell us if we should be doctors or lawyers or teachers. It doesn’t tell us whether we should take the internship this Summer or study abroad. It definitely doesn’t tell us who to marry, although it has some tips for narrowing down the pool.

The Bible tells us God’s explicit will for our lives just a couple times to my knowledge. In a letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes “It is God’s will for you to be sanctified…” His will is for us to be made Holy. Here’s how Chad put it:

God’s will for your life is that you be about His business.

That’s my response for 2014. I want to be about the Lord’s business. I want to love Him with all my heart and mind and soul and strength. I want to love the people around me with a love that’s costly and brash and bold. I want to proclaim the Good News openly and often, sprinkled with grace and truth. I want to walk in deeper obedience to His Son, never just knowing His commands but doing them. I want to thirst for a deeper knowledge of His Word, making room for, meditating on, and memorizing what He’s written and given. And I want to pray for more capacity, more strength, more Him in me. I want to pray that I’m about His business.

In 2014, don’t be so focused on your list that you forget that God would rather have YOU than the things that you’re doing for Him.

In 2014, understand  that you are His. Understand that if you trust in Him, He looks at you and calls you Beloved because of what Christ did on our behalf.

And then, in light of that understanding, in response to that understanding, be about His business in 2014.