During my years in youth ministry I've gotten to know a number of high school wrestlers. Consequently I've come to a greater appreciation of what previously seemed a strange and mildly barbaric sport. It is competition in the purest sense. No teammates, no ball, and minimal equipment; just two evenly matched opponents. But a unique circumstance was once brought to my attention in which a wrestler felt he was confronted with a no win situation. It happened in eighth grade, as if middle school weren't awkward enough, when he found himself lined up across the mat from a female wrestler. This is in no way a judgment regarding a girl's participation in a close contact sport dominated by boys. It is simply a statement of fact that my young friend experienced conflicting emotions. Were he to win the match he was unsure exactly how such a victory would be perceived by his peers, both male and female. As it turned out he need not have worried about that. He lost, which presented its own challenges. Likewise the 21st century American church finds itself caught in a half nelson courtesy of debates in the public square surrounding issues like sexuality and marriage, immigration, abortion, and racism. Some churches or individual Christians may be able to wiggle their way out of this incapacitating hold, but when they do the result is often something short of a triumph. Often it is far too great a compromise or far to legalistic a stance. Since some have a little extra time on their hands this week courtesy of their government employer, let's use the current healthcare debate as an example, shall we? Hang on...let me buckle on my headgear before going to the mat on this one!
Many, not all but many Christians express disgust over anticipated changes to healthcare in the United States, voicing sentiments that taxpaying Americans should not have to foot the bill for those who are too irresponsible to secure their own care. Hands are wrung and teeth clenched over the possible infringement of religious liberties. Fears are mounting that our dollars may potentially be used to fund procedures (namely abortion) that many Christians including myself find morally reprehensible.
But on the other hand, if you are on the side of the argument described above (as I am) and the government were by some unprecedented turn of events to abandon its dabbling in healthcare altogether, what will you have won? Would we ourselves be led to a greater sense of responsibility to look after the legitimately poor, disabled, and uninsured? It is not my intent and way beyond my pay grade to judge or determine the proper level of the government's involvement in healthcare. I'm simply saying that I find myself with conflicting emotions. Whether or not the government is capable of effectively providing and administering healthcare, am I capable or willing to fulfill Christ's call to love my neighbor as myself? Is the church? Either one, publicly funded "universal" healthcare or loving my neighbor as myself poses a significant cost and it's not as if there is a choice between the two. Both apparently are mandated. Read what the gospel of Jesus Christ requires of his followers: "Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross...'" All we stand to receive in return is eternal life as Jesus alludes to, saying, "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16:24-25).
Fortunately my young friend overcame and moved past his eighth grade wrestling debacle. Eventually, without needing to face anymore girls he became a state finalist by the time he graduated high school, then continued his career in college. Everyone forgot the contest with the girl. The point is not that he won or lost one match, but that he overcame all sorts of challenges and continued moving forward. Likewise winning is far from the highest priority of the Christian life. Remaining faithful and overcoming challenges in order to serve the ministry we've been called to, and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the greater objective. If you think about it even though he outsmarted the politicians of his time Jesus ultimately lost every political bout he'd ever had upon the day of his crucifixion. But he overcame all of that to an exponentially greater degree three days later when "God raised him from the dead" (Acts 13:30), something to consider next time you find yourself frustrated with the news of the day.
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