Winners and Losers
(Bishop David Graves for The Montgomery Advertiser) - Football season has kicked off for high school and college with the pro ranks soon to follow. Each week until the Super Bowl, which will take place the first Sunday of February, the list of winners and losers will be posted through various media channels. Football polls and standings will become of interest to many in these parts of the country. Some of us Atlanta Braves baseball fans will be holding out hope that our beloved team can play into October and possibly the World Series. The fall is a wonderful season for sports fans. Yet, there are winners and losers. As a University of Tennessee graduate, I hold out hope that my Volunteers will win more games than they lose, perhaps upsetting a team or two. All of these scenarios create winners and losers.
Yet, we choose sides not only in sports but politics, church, schools (private vs. public) and even what side of town one lives. Our polarization around these and many other matters of our society seem to position people against one another. People often think, “If you have the same thought or attitude as mine, you are a winner.” Or, “If it is different than my way of thinking, well…you are a loser. Not only a loser, but I don’t even like you.” To go deeper, hate builds a wall around our heart.
This winner and loser mentality is crippling us as a nation and our Christian witness. Every day as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church, I make decisions that tend to be viewed by some, and perhaps many, as a win or a loss. I’ll decide on one matter, be criticized for making it, and then be called names–most of which I cannot print here! I then make another decision, am applauded by the same group who criticized me before and then criticized by the other side. It could be viewed as winning and losing. What I have come to focus on is that it is not about winning and losing, but simply doing the right thing in the sight of God.
In our United Methodist denomination, we are heading to a called General Conference in February of 2019 where we will vote on issues around human sexuality–primarily our stance on human sexuality and same sex marriage. In our church polity, only the General Conference of the United Methodist Church can speak or change anything around church law or principles for ministry. Currently, our Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and marriage is between one man and one woman. There will be petitions presented at General Conference to strengthen our stance and there will be petitions to include same sex marriage and remove language that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. At General Conference 2019, there will be proposals, much debate and voting over these issues. When the votes are tallied, there will be winners and losers.
We witness in our political elections, whether they be national, regional, or local, where a typical election is decided by a narrow margin. Winners and losers. The results come with a great cost where divisiveness leads to polarization and distracts us from what is important in life. The important things in life are our relationships with people and most importantly our relationship with God.
Over the last two weeks, we have seen people place a priority on the mission of our children here in Montgomery over politics, teams, and schools to help in the aftermath of the Booker T. Washington Magnet High School fire. People have rallied together to prepare the temporary location at the Hayneville Road property and to pray for all those involved. The community response has been a wonderful blessing and has united us in a cause that is most important–children who are our future. The tragic loss of a building from a fire has ironically brought such a winning attitude to our community.
Jesus reminds us in His message called the Sermon on the Mount: blessed are those who know they need more than this world can ever offer and that is a need for God.
Blessed are those who are humble. We all need to think about that one.
Blessed are those who thirst for what is the right thing to do.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
In a culture that seems to thrive on winning and putting down others who disagree with them, Jesus reminds me to focus on going deeper in my relationship with God, put a spirit of humbleness within me, seek to do the right thing even when we are persecuted for it, have a spirit of mercy and seek to be a peacemaker in a world that so needs a spirit of peace.
What about you?