When my kids were little, I made them laugh when we would play the license plate game. I would change the rules in the middle or do things to skew the game in the direction I wanted. It was all in good fun until Kalie, my daughter, would get frustrated. "Dad, stop changing the rules!" she would say. I would reply, "What game are we playing again?" This would earn me a discerning eye roll, and then I would hear her giggle, and then she would try to do that to me as well. I would also do this with my son Ryan who liked to play the board game Risk. When he would leave the table, I would position troops to different countries to see if he would notice. He always did. The point was not to win; it was to lighten the game's mood and have fun. He would get frustrated because he was playing to win, and I played to get a good laugh.
How tempting it is to get dragged into the same game as everyone else. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who was not playing in the same league as you? It's frustrating when someone refuses to engage in the argument or conversation I wanted to have. However, many times it shows a person's wisdom. Jesus was the master of not playing their game. He has a way of cutting through the smokescreen to find the real issue. So today, I would like to explore his method of playing a different game.
1. Jesus understood that he had a different goal. The disciples and others expected him to set up his kingdom on earth, but his goal differed. His kingdom could be experienced on earth, but it was eternal in nature. Playing to win on earth means he would have weighed in on every political issue, made friends with those in power, and called
only the rich and powerful to follow him. Instead, he befriended the fringe, healed the sick, taught forgiveness, and pointed people to the Father.
2. Jesus was engaged in the issues of the day. His solution was outside of the realm of normal. He wasn't trite or interested in religious talk. He took the complicated and communicated in a simple way. He told practical stories. He used object lessons. He had time for the disenfranchised.
3. Jesus saw the potential in others even when they betrayed him. Both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus in a significant way. Peter was able to see his mistake and forgive himself. Judas saw his mistake and condemned himself. Several times in the New Testament, we see Jesus admonish his followers and redirect them to their purpose.
I believe great leaders refuse to play games with rules set up by others. They seek to understand their goal, engage in the day's issues, and see the potential in others. They play a different game. Their benchmarks are designed to help others reach their potential and move forward.
In the political realm, Christians are notorious for jumping on bandwagons and forgetting that we are to love our enemies and respond to evil by doing good. I am appalled at how easy it is for me to chant "Let's Go, Brandon" and forget that I need to pray for the leaders, especially when I disagree. I need to play a different game. If I want to influence society, then I need to start by making the case and focusing on the heart and minds of the people in my sphere of influence. Christians should get involved in politics, but they should be careful not to get dragged into the same game as others. We can stand up for our freedom, faith, and democracy without shock value or chanting phrases that, when translated, mean something else. Play a different game. Be creative. Seek to lift and honor others. God will bless you for it.