My grandson plays soccer at a very junior level. Local club stuff. Kids just starting out on the great soccer adventure. In a recent game against a private school with the advantages of resident teacher-coach and all-week possibilities of training, the score became close to an AFL score. So be it. Live and learn. But as the game progressed, the winning team began to do a ‘loser, loser’ dance with every goal they scored.
At the end of the game, none of us admired the skills of the opposing team. None of us tried to apply lessons from skill and dexterity observed on the field. Our one thought was ‘Don’t you kids become like them!’ Our one driving emotion was anger. And for our boys, the one overwhelming emotion was humiliation.
Had they offered to teach our kids, we would have said ‘no!’ Had they invited us for a barbecue lunch we would rather have declined and gone home to dry bread and water.
Gracious in victory. Gracious in defeat. Twins born of the same lineage. And both necessary for us a Christians in our struggle for the values and the freedoms we hold dear.
What motivates my writing is the sense of Christian triumphalism that sometimes comes through our Christian responses to victories seen as answers to prayer. Especially in public media such as websites and email. (Our social/political opponents are on our mailing lists. Count on it.)
I read in one article, ‘The [party name]’s Bill (via [Senator Name]) was ‘miraculously withdrawn’ just before lunch [date]. I wonder if that Senator saw it as miraculous? And was humbled? Or saw it as triumphalist, rubbing his/her nose in it, and was humiliated? ‘Bastards!’ I can hear him/her saying.
It is a minefield of communication—without doubt!—but we need to work with skill and wisdom to negotiate that minefield. To report on our successes to Christian pray-ers but acknowledge with gratitude the actions of those at whose hands the changes actually took place. Might we better say, ‘The [party name]’s Bill (via [Senator Name]) was withdrawn just before lunch on [date] and we are grateful to him/her and others who might have been instrumental in taking that action’?
Are we cutting out God’s credit? No. We know we prayed. We can even be ‘grateful for each other’s prayerful support.’ But neither are we cutting out the people we are praying for and about. They are doing the work. They are making the changes. The language of war—‘battle, victory’—and language that declares the actors in the scenario to be puppets —‘miracle, God moved them’—are both going to do long-term damage to the Christian cause. Closing doors. Whereas the language of grace and gratitude may open doors for friendship and conversation.
What we are talking about is not a lesson in copywriting. Writing begins with attitude. We are talking about the law of love in our relationships with those whose ideology and values are opposed to Christ and our Christian values.
Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ Check the list, ‘Love… do good… bless… pray for’ (note: not ‘pray against’). Doing good is pro-active and must be in words and speech. We need to consider how our responses affect those at whose hands the changes happened. How we can bless them.
Our political opponents are not fools in the normal human sense of the word. They will see how we paint ourselves into a corner. God answered prayer on this or that issue, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t or forgot to answer on another issue. They would see, were we to be grateful to God for victories but silent on defeats. How God answers and what He might be doing in our ‘defeats’ is another subject. But for now:
Gracious in victory. Gracious in defeat. Only one character trait—graciousness. And thus we do good and show love to those who are our political or ideological enemies.
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