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Competitive Sinning

gold-medalI enjoy the Olympics and last week marked the close of the 2012 Olympic Games . There is something exciting about watching all those athletes, who are the best in the world in what they do, gather to compete against one another. The Olympics are a display of man’s competitive spirit at its best and, unfortunately, at its worst. Watching the games reminded me of a book I had been studying in fellowship group, Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. One of the sins that Bridges discusses is something that I have a particularly difficult time with. Competitiveness. Anyone who has ever played a game or a sport with me, has probably noticed that I tend to be a bit competitive. This can be a problem. I am not trying to suggest that competition is wrong, that competing is wrong, or that we should not always try do our best. Biblically, we are called to strive for excellence, to do our best. The problem that I have is not in the competition, the problem is in my motivation. Whenever I am playing a game, or driving, or barbecuing, or fixing a computer, or telling a story, or eating, or sleeping, or anything – I want to be the best. I want people to know I’m the best. Part of me really wants to hear people say stuff like, “There goes Kenn – the best computer fixing, best barbecuing, best car driving, smartest guy I ever met. I hear he is awesome at taking naps and eating, too.” I want to bask in that glory, and that is a problem.

Reading and discussing Respectable Sins caused me to evaluate three things:

  1. My Motivation (Why am I competing?): I must not seek glory for myself. Each time the bible speaks about “doing our best”, it is tied to doing it for the glory of God and not for our own.

    Colossians 3

    23Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.


    It was refreshing to see that there were those in the Olympics who insisted on giving God the glory for what they were able to accomplish. Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition said, “I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me.”

  2. My Example (What do others see?): If I win—then belittle my competitors (who were also made in the image of God), become haughty and proud, or exhibit any sort of poor sportsmanship during the competition; I set a poor example. It would be far better to lose and set a good example in the process.

    Meghan Vogel, a runner in a state championship track meet, displayed just that type of example. When another runner, Arden McMath, collapsed onto the track in front of her, she didn’t run past her. She reached down, helped Arden to her feet, and then carried her the final 20 meters to cross the finish line. 

  3. God’s Standards (How do I evaluate success?): I need to remember that God does not measure success by medals won, records broken, or by how many people I can impress. God’s standards are clearly laid out for us in the Bible. Rather than looking to “win”, I should be striving to please God. If I win while in pursuit of God’s pleasure, so be it – but let Him be glorified.

    In Chariots of Fire (a true story), Eric Liddell ran and ran faster than anyone else, eventually winning an Olympic gold medal. The medal, however, was not his pursuit. He ran because he felt that to do otherwise would dishonor God. In the movie he says, "I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

    Colossians 3
    17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In summary: strive for excellence, compete wholeheartedly and with integrity, win the gold if you have the ability; but do it all for the glory of God and the pursuit of His pleasure.

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Borrowed Perfection

Gattaca01I like movies. My favorite movies are the ones that make me think. I believe that ANY movie should make you think, because we should always evaluate what we see and hear, but some movies are truly thought provoking. The best of the thought-provoking movies cause me to evaluate who I am and  who God would have me to be. In this regard, my favorite movie is one that most people have probably never heard of, a science fiction movie called Gattaca. While Gattaca is not a Christian movie, there are many Christian themes throughout the movie and there are many ideas and concepts that should provoke thought in any Christian that watches it.

The movie is a cautionary tale which takes place in a near future where DNA analysis and genetic manipulation are commonplace. Virtually everyone is conceived in laboratories in such a way that only the best genetic material is selected from each parent. Anyone conceived naturally is at a distinct genetic disadvantage and society has effectively split into two classes of people through discrimination that, while technically illegal, is almost impossible to stop or control since simple DNA test of a stray hair or piece of skin easily reveals the true genetic nature of any individual. Those naturally conceived, known as in-valids, are considered societal outcasts and relegated to only the most menial and undesirable vocations.

The protagonist of the story, Vincent, is one of these outcasts and his parents are informed almost immediately upon his birth that he is fragile and has a 99% chance dying of a heart disorder at the age of 30. The movie is about his struggle to achieve his absurd goal of becoming an astronaut and making it to space, something that is reserved for only the absolute best and brightest, the perfect – something he could never hope to achieve due to his “inferior” DNA. In order to get into Gattaca, the space travel and training institution, he has to borrow the DNA – blood, hair, skin flakes, etc. – of someone who IS genetically perfect and pass himself off as that person. Any small amount of his own DNA would make him unacceptable to the institution.

While there are many ideas and concepts that I find thought provoking within Gattaca (I quite often glean some new nugget of truth from it each time I watch it), the idea of this borrowed perfection struck me as particularly relevant to the Christian experience. Entrance to heaven and experiencing a personal relationship with God is reserved for those who are perfect and sinless. Any small amount of sin, regardless of how tiny it is, renders us completely unacceptable. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much good we accomplish in this world, no matter how many times we go to church, no matter how often we pray – we can never hope to be perfect. We cannot hope to be sinless, which means that we are doomed to be eternal outcasts. We need to borrow someone else’s perfection. While Vincent had to go through an unbelievable amount of effort  and deception in order to pass himself off as perfect, the work has been accomplished for us by Christ and we are not to hide it, but are to share it and declare it boldly because His perfection is boundless.

Romans 3
21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Christianity, Movies

 

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