Watching a middle school basketball game can be quite the experience, especially when you’re caught in the middle of the yelling parents crowd. Zealous parents will never let anything go, and supporting one’s child quickly becomes wishing destruction upon someone else’s. Many things were yelled that night. An example?
“I’m tired of being the redheaded stepchild of the conference!”
I tried not to take offense.
What caught my attention most, however, was not the fact that both redheads and blended families were spoken poorly of, but the manner in which the parents were never satisfied. If the referees missed one traveling call suddenly all others were suspect.
“You call it against us and not them?!?!”
“You got to let us walk with the ball. Fair is fair!”
“Oh, you finally saw that one! Nice, but you still owe us one!”
It didn’t matter which way the calls were going, for or against us, these zealous parents could never be placated. And the odd thing about all of this is that their children were playing very well. It was the best I had seen them play all season, and the victory was decisive. Instead of celebrating well-made plays, however, we spent our time feeling as if the world were against us.
Now, not having a child on the court made me somewhat able to sit objectively by and critique everything from the outside. I didn’t have a dog in the fight. (If any of those parents read this, I am in no way calling your children dogs.) But don’t we all do this very thing in other aspects of life?
Instead of living our lives the best we can, instead of putting our all into following Christ, we complain about how much “they” are against us. We complain about how “they” want to destroy us. And while we are bemoaning the ways in which the world is against us we are racking up a long list of missed opportunities. Why? Because we are more concerned with the actions of the world than we are about our own.
We see this played out all too often in the intersection of faith and politics. We Christians are great at playing the martyr, acting as if the world is out to get us. Meanwhile all the world sees are a bunch of whining, complaining Christians who think the world ought to cater to their every whim.
Why should we argue with those outside of the faith, or for that matter those marginally associated with the faith, in order to make them agree with and follow our moral vision? Would it not be more productive to simply live out that moral and ethical vision demonstrating to the world through our actions instead of arguing about it with the “arbiters” of this world?
Now, clearly, I am not saying that Christians should have no voice in the public square. We should strive to make general society more Christ-like by arguing and persuading others that the peaceful and life-honoring Kingdom of God is the way this world was meant to operate. We must, however, make two vital realizations.
1.) We should base all our arguments, first and foremost, in Scripture and in Jesus Christ. All other arguments fall short. So when we ask what to do about violence, guns, human-trafficking, or whatever it may be, we start with the life and testimony of Jesus Christ. Yes we can use reason and we can reference tradition, both religious and secular, but all of that should be subject to Christ and his life.
2.) If the world does not agree with us and goes a separate way, we shouldn’t get red in the face as we yell about how demonic they are. Instead we should simply live the life that Jesus has called us to as Christians. Maybe they’ll see we’re right, maybe they won’t, but we prevent the world from seeing us as a group of complainers with a sense of entitlement. Instead we are living out a transformative existence that is changing the world one life at a time.
In so doing, we do what any good athlete does: regardless of the arbiters’ decisions, they play the game to the best of their ability. We should do the same, and even if, according to the world, we lose, we can remember that the first shall be last and the last shall be first and that in our foolishness we have shamed the wisdom of this world.