A few years ago, I was conned into playing Risk. It’s a painful game for me — I always lose. It’s because I happen to be the owner of a trash-talking mouth. If I’m doing anything competitive, then my tongue gets me into trouble. I really can’t help it. It’s my own form of Tourette’s. So in a game like Risk, you might as well put a giant bulls-eye on my forehead and tell everyone to shoot. And since this game is a 3-4 hour commitment, I don’t just lose, but I lose slowly and painfully. I hate this game.
But playing with non-competitive people makes it even worse. My friend James really didn’t care if he won or not. But he loved taking someone down with him. So, he attacked at will, without rhyme or reason. As a result, the tenor of the game changed: we had to curry his favor. If he decided that he would send all of his green troops against my little yellow formations, I knew I would be done. The other three players knew this too, and all of a sudden, for a player who didn’t care if he won or lost, James found himself with a great deal of power. When he didn’t care about winning for himself, he had incredible influence to sway the board.
This afternoon, I finished the first chapter of a book written in the 60’s called Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde. He was a member of the British Communist Party for 20 years. But after he left the party, he gave an address to Catholic leaders explaining why the Communists have had a much greater influence than the Catholics though they were 14 times fewer. According to Hyde, the Communists were not smarter, nor did they have a more compelling ideology. Instead, the average Communist had more dedication — the kind that made him willing to sacrifice time, energy, paychecks and even their lives. They were dedicated to doing something — anything — for Communism, 365 days a year.
Their example cuts to the heart. What would it look like for Christians to be willing to sacrifice time, energy, paychecks and even their lives? What if we were dedicated to doing something — anything — for Jesus, 365 days a year? We often hold too tightly to our comfortable way of life. I know I do. Sacrifice? Can we talk about that over a cup of Starbucks? But seriously, if we stopped trying to win (most stuff? biggest house? widest fame?) the game of life by our culture’s rules, perhaps we could actually influence culture instead. If we “died” each day, perhaps we would help others find life. We would also find life for ourselves as well — a meaning and purpose to live by each day.
If anyone understood dedication, Jesus did. He put everything on the line for the cause, so much so that he endured a hellish and tortuous death. His life wasn’t above the cause, so he laid it down. Willingly. He made the ultimate sacrifice. And he moved the world.
If we, like James, stopped trying to win the Game, perhaps we would begin to shape it too.