By all means compete… for last place

An invitation to serve and honor the hearts of others

Photo by Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

3 min read

I can be a competitive person. I see this come out of me most often when I am playing a board game with friends. I become hyper-focused on winning to the point where it can stop feeling like a game.

I remember one time when I was a kid, playing chess with my dad. I was not very good and was losing the game. My dad left for a few moments, and I quickly moved two pieces around in a desperate attempt to cheat and win. Of course, my dad noticed right away, and the game and all the fun was over.

Now, as much as I would like to think that this part of me only comes out when I am playing games, sadly that is not the case. I can get caught up in the competition of life. I can want to be the best at my work, for people to notice me, for others to look worse compared to me, and on and on. Maybe you can relate.

How different is St. Paul’s exhortation in this month’s Word of Life, “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10).

Now here is the good news: Paul wants us to be competitive. So for all of us who feel that deep desire to compete, there is room for that in the kingdom of God. But Paul says we must compete in the game of love; we must outdo one another in showing honor.

In other words, in the kingdom of God, I am not trying to compete for the first place but for the last place. I am using my energy and zeal to make sure others are loved and honored.

If you are confused, let’s just look at the example of Jesus himself. Jesus did everything in his power to make sure that others were loved and honored.

Remember how he went out of his way to eat and drink with sinners and outcasts. Remember how he called the Apostles to be with him, even though they felt unworthy. Remember how he laid down his life on the cross so that everyone far from God could be brought close.

St. Paul is simply telling us to be like Jesus. As Christians, we are now called to live the life of Jesus by serving others, by bearing one another’s burdens, by seeking to honor the hearts of others.

If I seek to honor you, and you seek to honor me, then suddenly we are showing each other mutual affection; we are sharing in that beautiful life of Jesus.

Every time I have tried to compete for the first place in life, not caring who got hurt as a consequence, I have been miserable.

To live like Jesus, on the other hand, to compete in love and showing others honor, brings joy to the heart. It can even be playful and fun as we as Christians seek more creative ways to love and honor one another.

Maybe you can pick one or two people in your life who are also trying to follow Christ and you can agree to compete this month in showing honor and love. You might be surprised how God shows up as you play in the game of Christ. 

Join the conversation. Send your thoughts to the editor Jon Sweeney.