The Loser Church
What does success look like? In society, we measure success by what people have: money, education, relationships, power, respect … And we adjust our personal ambitions according to what we value – we choose goals that suit our talents and will bring us what we hope for in life. And we tend to estimate our own worth or value, and sometimes the worth or value of others, according to how successful we are in achieving those ambitions.
In many ways, that’s just a part of being human. And it makes sense that we should be ambitious: what could be more ambitious than seeking to be the person that Christ is calling you to be?
But we miss the point when we begin to think that worshipping God is about being the ‘best’.
The disciples were ambitious – they saw what Jesus was up to and wanted to be a part of it. So they asked him who would be the greatest in the God’s Kingdom.
I think they must have been pretty surprised when Jesus called over a little child. Not a rabbi, or a business man, or even a devout Jew. A child. Jesus said:
'This is the truth: unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. In that kingdom, the most humble who are most like this child are the greatest' (Matt 18:3).
Sometimes I think what God delights in most is not the carefully constructed worship we organise on a Sunday morning, or even the fact that we drag ourselves out of bed to get here. I think he most loves it most when we recognise that actually, we're just children, and what we really need is time with our Father God.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is a harrowing film about a mother’s struggle to mother to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does. But in the midst of the angst, there’s a heartbreaking moment when Kevin is unwell and all he wants is a cuddle with his mummy. That moment of surrender, the tenderness and beauty of it, makes me weep.
The reality of being a child of God (every human being on the planet) is that our security is in our relationship with him. There is not a single thing that you can do to make God love you any more than he already does - or any less, for that matter.
And he loves you so much that his single ambition was to lose everything so that he could win you over.
It strikes me that Jesus was the ultimate loser. He was born to unmarried parents in a time when that would have been controversial. When he grew up, he failed to go into the family business; instead he became an itinerant preacher, wandering the countryside with his mates. He had no home, no wife, no stability ... He got noticed, but not always for the right things. He was accused of sin, and even of demon possession. Deserted by his closest friends, he died a criminal's death.
On that cross, Jesus became the biggest loser of all time – he literally lost everything.
So maybe success looks a little different to how we expect?
Maybe it looks like a disgraced preacher nailed to a tree for crimes he never committed.
I think that means that Christianity is designed to be a religion of losers. We are asked to walk in the footsteps of a God who broke every convention of what a successful human being should look like and we’re told that humility and vulnerability are what matter most. We’re told to give up our lives so that we might save them (Matt 16:24) and the Beatitudes (Matt 5, Luke 6) give us a good idea where God’s priorities lie.
That means that when we look at other people and compare ourselves with them (yes, you do it too), we should judge them by God’s standards, not the world’s.
Are you up for joining the Loser Church?