Being a Cleveland Cavs fan by marriage, I was intrigued to learn that the Republican convention will be held in their basketball court. Somehow the wood floor that hosts hundreds of hours each year of elbows, shoving, and intentional fouling, will be covered over so that neat rows of chairs and a podium may exist in the midst of the arena. If the Republicans have a contested convention, some are promising that there will be more blood sport happening that week than what even the NBA allows. I pray not. Politics, like religion, should not be a competitive enterprise. Nor should the quest for entertainment drain our contests of their intended purpose.
In the church, we should be careful to limit competition to the annual picnic’s egg-toss. When there is a contest between competing visions, leadership, or policies, the focus should be upon building consensus and hearing the concerns of those to meek to lift up their voice. The purpose of politics is not to give entertainers another stage to strut upon. Similarly, the purpose of our church meetings is not to give competitive individuals another arena in which to one-up their neighbors.
Church life is not a chess game, where we silently consider our strategies knowing that every move that benefits me costs my opponent something. The church is organic, a wholistic enterprise that only remains alive through cooperation. Even the most aggressive of her early leaders used the language of competition only to speak of how he disciplined his personal life. Regarding the life of the church, he said:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with [Christ’s church]… and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(I Corinthians 12:12, 23-27)