When my children were really young, my wife would describe them as playing a game of “I Win”. The rules were simple: from their point of view, they had to win. If the activity had rules, and they weren’t resulting in “I win”, then the rules had to change. If the adventure was being made up as it went along, the outcome needed to be, “I win”.
As they grew up, though, this has gotten much better. My family has learned what it means to be a polite both when winning and when losing. We’re not perfect, but I’d like to think that playing “I win” is a game of the past.
I think that we all like to win, though. As I have said to others, “We want our kids to be good sports, but it’s a lot easier when they win.” I’m the same way: sometimes I get stuck in an argument, or am determined to prove myself the “most correct” or the “winner” in a discussion or a debate. (Maybe I still have some work to do!)
In Jesus, though, we have already won:
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:3-4 NASB
Our faith in Jesus (which manifests itself through our works) aligns us with the winning side, both here on earth, and in eternity. While individual matches in this “tournament” of life may seem to go to the other side (seemingly won by evil forces, who have set themselves against righteousness), the final score will be overwhelmingly in God’s favor.
Unlike little kids (whether playing a board game or making up games on the playground), though, God didn’t have to keep changing the rules to secure victory for the people He had created. At first, God’s plan may not have entirely clear: The “rules” for salvation were outlined in the law given to Moses, and yet even the most devout follower of them continued to fall short. Most people would have sought a loophole or a way to tweak the rules, in order to be found sufficiently righteous to merit being part of God’s family. (In fact, some did exactly that, and others continue to do so, today.)
Like a chess grandmaster, though, God had been planning the victory all along. He found a way for all of us to win that nobody saw coming. Jesus (God the Son) kept all of the rules of the Law (even going above and beyond them; living up to their intent of a righteous heart, not just the “letter” of prescribed actions).
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Matthew 5:17 NASB
Then, in an incredible move, like a king-side castle in chess, He swapped places with us, and secured victory for all who accepted and took hold of the gift that He offered.
In return, though, Jesus’ followers no longer have to find superiority over those who have not yet learned about Him, nor do we have to fight and claw our way to little “victories” that just leave those with opposing views crushed and defeated. Instead, we can rest in the confidence that the game has been won, and our job is to fill as many of the slots on the team’s “roster” (the Body of Christ). When we do so, even those who weren’t there when the winning move was made can enjoy the eternal victory celebration.