20 July 2010
However, if you can see what I saw, if you can see what God wants out of our relationships, if for any reason this makes sense to you, I hope that you will write/comment me.
This swimming photo is one I found on Flickr; I did not take this photo. But it's so innocent. It's a race, one with a youngster learning to keep her head in the water and her arms extended. And her family, no doubt, was cheering and enthusiastic and maybe even proud of her, if only for getting into the water.
This week in Brisbane I saw an unhealthy competition, in fact, what I could title "the spirit of competition." I've seen some references to the word "competition" in the Bible; here are a few verses of proximate thinking:
Jer. 12.5 ¶ “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
Jer. 22.15 “Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, And do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.
1Cor. 9.25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
2Tim. 2.5 And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
But what I saw in Brisbane was not healthy; it was downright hostile. And sadly it happened in the Jewish believing community as well as the rest of the church. My conclusion is not the result of an exhaustive survey, but rather the continuous and haunting thought which has prompted my praying all week.
We conducted a Shabbat gathering at our rental house in Kangaroo Point. Some Jewish folks turned up. Great! We ate and fellowshipped and then I taught from the Scriptures and we enjoyed the glow of the Shabbat candles, and the sweetness of the challah.
Then on Sunday morning I spoke at a nearby Christian church and afterwards two different couples approached me. Innocently and pleasantly they approached. Both with their own agendas. Both to tell me of their interest in Jewish things, and that they have a Friday night Shabbat gathering. And ...would I come next time I'm in town?
Wow, where were these folks two nights earlier? Seems they both had found out about the meeting in time to attend. And since Sunday I've heard of a couple more meetings of Jewish people on Friday nights. Wow, Brisbane is very busy with Jewish gatherings by church folks. But they don't co-operate; they in fact, compete.
I think of territory, of turf war. And the image I get is one of an elbow. Everyone elbowing each other, to try to get up front, to get the supremacy. It's true that 'only one wins the prize' (1 Cor. 9.24 *) but the reality is that ALL OF US are that ONE. We are not competing with each other but with principalities and powers, the evil forces that are ever trying to knock us back and take Y'shua down another rung.
Friends, and colleagues, I've been involved in so many levels of cooperative efforts over the years that I sometimes forget the blessings we have who share such. In the LCJE, and even in Jews for Jesus, we are all not the same, but we have formed a union, a confederacy, of like minded folks, who subjugate their differences to make a larger statement and a cooperative one, larger than we ever could by ourselves.
So when I bump up against the sad reality of antagonism, in the name of "come to our thing, it's better" it's shocking and disappointing. Oh, of course, there is room for another meeting. Of course, we can have more than one gathering place in a city, especially a large city like Brisbane. I'm not saying that should not happen. But what I'm saying is that our arms should stop elbowing each other for territory and reach out to embrace one another. We should welcome each other. We should cheer each other on.
We all are going to win the prize.
We all are going to find eternity with Y'shua.
In the meantime, let's speak (as) well (as we can) of each other.
Competition? I'm not at all against this 9-year-old swimming hard. I love keeping score in tennis on the weekends when I play or squash or golf or anything...and that scoring often pushes me hard to do my best. But guard your heart, dear friends, from scoring at another(believer)'s expense. We will all win. Let's bring each other along to the victory line.
* 1Cor. 9.24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.