Major League Baseball officially began a week ago.* Fans are full of optimism. Even though my team, the Cubs, ended the first week with a 2-4 record, I still am optimistic that they can at least play competitive .500 baseball this season. Of course, a month or two from now much of the optimism will be gone for some. By then fans will know which teams have a realistic chance of playing meaningful baseball in October during the playoffs and which do not. After all the expectations and work which the players have put in during the off season, hat’s somewhat disappointing.
The Game that Matters
Then again, baseball is only a game. When it comes to our own lives… Well, that’s a different matter. Failure and defeat are not viable options. In a Nietzschean worldview where God is dead and life depends on the will to power, the fear of loss and defeat means we must act for our own interests. That might seem ok if we happen to be the strong who sit atop of the food chain, so to speak. But most of us are not! And even the alpha-male dog eventually weakens.
According to a Nietzschean worldview, success depends on independent strength and a willingness to overcome whatever threatens our survival. Taken to the extreme, we must kill or be killed. It’s a philosophy ignorant of the sovereign yet benevolent God who stamps his image upon us as his creation. Consequently, it views human life as animal life where one is either predator or prey.
Yet this way of life is not as foreign to as we might wish to believe. Turn on the news, the television, etc… Our world is a place of power where people make decisions every day that serve their own interests, placing their own needs above others, and with enough strength, ascend to the top.
The Game Changer
Fortunately, we know better. We know because Jesus Christ was crucified and has resurrected, that he has destroyed every kingdom, authority, and power. We know because of his death and resurrection, that we can never achieve the victorious immortality we crave through our own strength and initiative but in Christ alone. We know that through his death and resurrection, Jesus frees us from all selfish needs and gives us the power to live as servants of each other. We know…
Or do we know?
After spelling out the cosmic implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul had one practical admonition for the Corinthian Christians. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58, NIV). I guess Paul understood how easy it is to spiritualize the gospel, separating it from the way Christians are called to live.
So if I may be so presumptuous, I’ll tell you what I think we know. I think we encounter the Nietzschean worldview every day in our world making it very difficult to believe that God is bringing about his kingdom here on earth, restoring life as God created and redeemed life to be lived. That’s why we must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ again and again so that we will stand firm in our faith, knowing that living in the way of Jesus is not in vain. Unless we do that, the gospel is nothing but one of many religious stories to tell ourselves. If God is making all things new in Christ, through his death and resurrection, as we confess then we must live accordingly!
* This post is a slightly modified version originally published as an article of the same title in Connecting 28 (April 3, 2013), a biweekly publication of the Columbia Church of Christ.