Winners and losers – it’s March Madness. Seasons and careers end abruptly while we circle or strike the names on our brackets. Circle the winners and cross out the losers. It isn’t really that simple, though, is it? Wichita State plays the entire season without a loss and then loses in the second round. It’s hard to call them losers, but in the NCAA tournament, they are. Men’s and women’s teams throughout the country with winning seasons didn’t qualify for the Big Dance and were relegated to the NIT. Their coaches will talk about redemption and proving themselves and using the opportunity to get better, but it’s still not the Big Dance – it’s the NIT, or the CBI, or the CIT, or spring break on the beach, but they still didn’t win. The problem is that in our world, we tend to label and group other people into convenient categories, oftentimes into a pair of extremes that define our reality – Winners or losers. Rich or poor. Liberal or conservative. Worth my time or not worth my time. Believer or unbeliever. That’s our human way of doing things, but God has a different way!
BASKETBALL – More Than Winning?
The scoreboard tells us whose won and whose lost. This past weekend, the losers included Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Syracuse, and Wichita St. – programs that even those least familiar with the sport would consider to be winners. Their coaches, too, have been winners in the past, like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Bill Self, but this year, they didn’t win. Despite not winning on the court, however, we saw some character revealed as they handled their losses and that’s why it’s totally ridiculous to label somebody like Coach K as a loser, especially when he does something like this:
And when North Carolina’s Roy Williams handles a controversial loss like this, is he a loser?
What about All-Everything Doug McDermott?
The point I’m trying to make is that in trying to organize our own worlds, we categorize people quickly and unfairly. The scoreboard says they lost or the selection committee may not offer them a bid, but every coach and team out there has had their own path, their own circumstances, and their own challenges. Sometimes they rise up and sometimes they fail miserably, but our quick-to-judge, bandwagon-jumping society encourages us to circle them or cross them out!
LIFE – In or Out?
As we search for wisdom and consider the quick-to-label habits of our world, I want to challenge you to consider for yourself how much you fall into the trap of judgments. Do you make snap judgments about people? I’ll be honest, as I thought about it, I find that I do far too often. I’ve certainly grown over the years and realize that in my youth, as a college student, and as a young coach I too frequently played the “in or out” game. Who was I going to hang with? Who was I going to date? Who was I going to work for and who was I going to recruit? It seems like every part of life involved those kinds of choices and before I knew it, I found that I was grouping and selecting people based on some subconscious list of categories. Now, with a little more wisdom and age, I regret that. With hindsight, it becomes easy to see how much those judgments limited my social, professional, and personal opportunities in life.
FAITH – We’re all the same.
Paul encouraged a fellow believer and all of us “to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2). So, even though we live in a label world, we should strive to get along with everyone and not rule them out because they don’t fit into our “acceptable” box. The truth is that all of us are broken and all of us have sinned. There’s no need for boxes like Saved or Unsaved, Saint or Sinner, Believer or Unbeliever, because even when we think we have it figured out or think we’re moving in the right direction, we stumble. As I was pondering this, I walked into church on Sunday and heard a wonderful sermon about how Jesus views us. When the church leaders of His day tried to trap Him by bringing in a woman who had been caught cheating on her husband, they asked Him if they should follow the law of the day and stone her to death (John 8:1-11), Jesus gave His answer by asking which of them had not committed a sin. If they hadn’t sinned, they could throw the first stone – but none of them could step up and neither can we. We all have sins, mistakes, and losses. We all have battles to fight, which means we’re all sinners in need of God’s mercy. The good news is that He makes no distinction. It’s free to everyone – no CBI, no NIT, no winning record required. We all get in the Big Dance and we all can be winners. God’s way is so much better!