No One Wins Until Everyone Wins
I remember reading somewhere of a missionary who (for some reason) tried to teach the game of croquet to the native people with whom he was working. They just couldn't get it. He laid out the wickets, explained the rules and showed them the basic skills. What they couldn't get is what happened when they hit an opponent’s croquet ball. He showed them how to place their foot on their ball and then “send” the opponent’s ball off the field. (That is the best part of croquet, sin't it?) The natives were completely confused, “Why would we want to do that?” Competition of this kind was unknown in their hunter-gatherer culture that depended on cooperation. Croquet for them became a cooperative effort; the game wasn’t over until everyone made it through all the wickets. No one won until everyone won.
That is a good description of church, “No one wins until everyone wins.” Sometimes we turn church into a contest of wills where there is a winner and a loser. The issue can be anything from worship styles to what color we paint the auditorium. We use influence and church politics to get our way so that our side wins. But church was founded by God’s love and on Christ’s cross. The way the church is supposed to operate is by love and sacrifice. When it becomes a competition where someone wins and someone loses, then it stops being the church. No one wins until everyone wins. Paul says this in our reading for today in Romans 12:14-18
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Sure this is really lousy advice if you want to win a competition. But this is a critical command if you want to live as the church of God. No one wins until everyone wins.