When learning a new game, a guy I know does not ask, How do you play? He asks, How do you win? The definitive question of a results oriented culture. What matters is not how you play the game, but whether you win or lose.
I had the pleasure of watching El Clasico a week ago, accompanied by two Barcelona fans and a Real Madrid fan. This was a club game that the world was watching, and it didn't disappoint. To sum up, Barcelona were breathtakingly good. As one writer described it, they not only had the ball on a string, but the had the Madrid players on strings too, so in control were the Catalans. 5-0 was the final score, but after the game my Madrid amigo was defiant that this isn't the end, and that we should wait and see who gets the trophy in the end.
I think such comments reflect not only a misunderstanding about football, but a misunderstanding about life.
Madrid may well win the title at the end of the season, but nobody watches football so that they can see a large cup being passed from a suited gentleman to a sweaty football player. We watch football, as a typical Arsenal fan said, for the moments of delight that flicker our way every now and then. If Barcelona celebrated like they won the league last week, it's because the joy they felt was on a par with if not greater than they joy experienced had they just completed a league triumph. That's how much style means to them. Winning will get you on the history books; style will get you into stories that will be passed on for generations.
Can I relate this to Christianity? You bet I can!
Salvation as we conceive it has become the answer to the question, How do I win? We don't care about the present moments of beauty and faithfulness and love, forgetting the reality that it is such things that will echo through the ages. We're like my Madrid-supporting friend, consoling ourselves with the thought that we'll end up winning the big prize eventually therefore the present moment is of little worth.
The Bible flips this on its head. We're told that precisely because of the grand future that awaits us -- i.e. resurrection bodies restored to the image of Christ -- our present moments of beauty, faithfulness and love are not in vain. This is like telling Barcelona that right now they are playing the football of the future, the kind of football that will last through the ages, the kind of football that will triumph over Jose Mourinho's dark arts once and for all.
Good news, eh?