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.

Hey Can I Read That?

Derek is everybody’s least favorite kid on the playground. He’ll hit the kid you’re playing with and then he’ll hit you. He ruins every game of duck duck goose you try to start. The worst part is he’ll repeatedly ask for a snack or a ride on your shoulders. You’ll comply and then right after he’ll either ask for more or walk away disinterested. Simply put, Derek is really really hard for me to love.

A couple weeks ago, Derek asked to get on my shoulders for what seemed like the hundredth time. It was love far purer than I could muster that put him up on my shoulders. I knew the drill. He was going to get up there and tell me to run around the housing complex. He would hold on to the sides of my face with his dirty, grimy hands like he always did. When we got back, he would tell me to do it again. If I refused or said I was tired, he’d sulk away without even a thank-you.

But when I sat on the bench and he crawled up, instead of digging his heel into my side to spur on my running, he pointed his hand to my Bible on the bench. “Hey can I read that?” “Sure,” I said, handing him the Word. “Where should I start?” I opened it up to John chapter three and pointed him towards verse sixteen. Derek began to read.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

He read further in the passage and then pointed towards some people on the swings. “Go there,” he ordered. He read it again. One girl gave me a look of astonishment; “Is that the Bible?” “Yep, Derek wanted to read the Bible to y’all today.”

“Hey go over there, I want to read to them,” and he read it again. His voice picked up more boldness and conviction the third and the fourth time. He ordered me around until everyone had heard. Here was Derek from the projects, broken home, eight years old, proclaiming the gospel to his playground.

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousnessholiness and redemption.

1 Corinthians 1:27-30 (emphasis added)

Derek reading John 3:16

This picture is teaching me so many things. In so many ways, we’re Derek. We’re weak, foolish, lowly, and despised. But we stand on someone else’s shoulders. We read somebody else’s Words. We boast in Christ Jesus, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.

God uses the Dereks to show us just how much He loves us. God uses the screw-ups, the misfits, and the playground punks. God wants to use you and me too. Let’s crawl up on His shoulders and proclaim the gospel with our words and our lives.

“Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31b