Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Competition Part of Creation or Part of the Fall?

So, did God create us to be competitive or not? We are midway between the Dubuque Winter Iowa Games where 5K participants Sunday faced an icy cold road running advisory and the  2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, running February 7-23, followed by the Paralympics March 7-16, which face the dangers of terrorist threats. Competition with the weather, and worse yet, guns and bombs, were not the plan for either games. 

But what about competition itself? The world will focus on the Olympics. Many of us will watch. Why? It may be the thrill of speed, the grace on ice. For me it’s seeing the flags of all those nations, large and small, as athletes of the world come together peacefully. Peacefully, we pray!

Not that the wars of the world will stop. Not that terrorist threats will go away. Some people have already been killed. Clashes of ideology abound. Plots to disrupt the games challenge a ring of steel and 40,000 and more security officers and guards.

People are peacefully protesting Russia’s anti-gay law and taking a stand with LGBT athletes and LGBT Russian people.

From a faith point of view, there are theological issues.  Did God create us to compete? Some cite “survival of the fittest,” believing that winning is everything. Others respond that competition leads to harm, even death, and is part of the “Fall” of humankind.

I believe God intended human beings for life-giving interdependence. God created us to grow and designed us to develop, to use all of our talents to the fullest potential. Stretching our abilities through healthy, fair competition can be a means to that end. Watching the Olympics and Paralympics is exciting. But focusing only on the medal count of one nation over another misses the joy of full engagement by all.

Author Bill Diehl wrote, “Jesus lived and moved in a competitive society just as we do.  But he was not hooked by the powers of competition. He did not need to compete.

Did Christ engage in competition? If so, with whom or why? Jesus came not to overpower. He turned competition upside down, saying that whoever wants to be great must be servant of all. He was victorious, but not over human beings. He conquered death, but not for his own sake. For ours. The core of the resurrection life is not competition, but community.  May the Olympic Games be life-giving and community-building!

(first published by Norma Cook Everist, Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Feb. 1, 2014)

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