It’s the best weekend in sports. For four straight days, there are college basketball games from morning until evening. Upsets. Game-winners. The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat.
This is the best team I’ve ever gotten to see play live: the 2007 Florida Gators. I had seats about 10 rows behind the basket for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in St. Louis.
This team ended up winning back-to-back national championships. All 5 guys in this picture were drafted that year, 3 of them in the top 10 of the NBA draft.
Here’s what I noticed, seeing them play in person: they had another gear. They played some good teams, and the teams would stay relatively close. But at some point in the second half, they would shift into overdrive and blow the other team out of the arena.
One of the (many) things I love about the Bible is the athletic imagery. We even did a sermon series about it: boxing, running, wrestling, they’re all there.
Know what else is there? Winning.
That’s the point of competition, right? To finish, and to win? Victory?
Guess what? Jesus talks about winning, too. But He also points out that it doesn’t matter if you win, if you win the wrong thing.
“What good is it if you win the whole world but lose your soul?”
Answer: no good.
Jesus has a competitive drive that puts Michael Jordan to shame. Literally, His mission was to defeat Satan and declare victory over sin, death and Satan. All His blood, sweat and tears were for this purpose. And it all paid off.
But there’s one more place Jesus addresses winning. It’s a famous passage about conflict and reconciliation.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
Not won over your brother, as in, I win and he loses. No, won over your brother, as in, saved him from the danger of unreported sin and unresolved conflict.
See the difference?
Winning matters, and it matters what you win. Winning an argument doesn’t always do much for God’s Kingdom.
Winning a soul does. It also reflects God’s heart. One soul is worth whatever sacrifice, whatever blood, sweat or tears it takes. Our salvation and that of others is the only victory worth winning.
At least it was for Jesus.