Pushing the Red Button
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9, ESV)
Up till then, we'd crushed the competition. Granted, this wasn't a sporting event. In fact, the most physically taxing aspect involved pressing a red button. But we had other skills—scholars' bowl skills. We could answer questions, rack up points, and bury other teams with our wit and finely honed memorization. In fact, we'd rarely been challenged.
Then came the county tournament. I grew up in a sparsely populated county. As far as scholars' bowl competitions, this was it. Sure, we traveled outside the area and competed for exhibition prizes, but the county tourney meant validation at home. And we knew we could win.
In the two-bracket competition, each team in the county usually played every other team. That only worked because it amounted to playing around three games apiece (as I said, a small county). At the end, the last team standing in the winners' bracket played the last team standing in the losers' bracket.
Match one involved our team pressing those little red buttons into submission. We outscored the other guys by something close to a two-to-one margin. In other words, we cleaned house in our nerdy way.
And then came match two against Maury Middle School. We went in glowing; we came out stunned. Let's just say that they completely trounced us—wasn't even close. Afterwards, we rebounded to an easy win in the last match, but that only meant we had to play Maury again in the championship.
What happened? If you guessed the underdogs roared back to take the trophy, then I would love to confirm that. But, no. In front of our families and teachers, we got beaten even worse than before. In fact, I remember the match being out of reach soon after it started and all of us feeling powerless to do something.
We'd practiced, studied, and prepared ourselves. We'd won match after match prior to the tourney. But still, we couldn't overcome this one team—even when given two shots. Our superiority turned into inferiority in a single day.
Intersecting Faith & Life: If there's one thing I've learned about human effort and human ability, it's that there's always someone better. Someone can always write better, think more creatively, or hit the ball farther. Someone can always outscore, outplay, or outcompete. And, yet, we humans spend so much effort trying to overcome, overwhelm, or just plain win. We compete, and we fight to prove ourselves.
Jesus brushes all that aside in a single sentence: Blessed and happy and satisfied are those who seek peace with God and peace with others. This isn't a condemnation of competition, but it is a blunt reminder of the point of our lives. We're not here to see who's the best at sword swallowing or chicken juggling. God calls us children when we seek the good of other people above our own good.
If we win or if we lose (or if we get completely whipped twice by the same team), God's blessing on our life doesn't increase or decrease based on the score. Instead, He expects us to love Him and other people—even the ones who are better than us at something.