Article by: Carter Hanson, Young Adults Pastor
When was the last time you thought about your competitive nature? What comes to mind? Is it a good part of your life or a negative part? Does it bring up good memories or some that you regret? To be honest, it is a mix of both for me. I have always gravitated towards team sports, and growing up; it was a great way to learn a lot of things that the bible instills. When I think about my competitive nature, it’s hard not to see an ugly side. I’ve done and said things in the name of competition that I look back at with a palm on my face. Why did I do that? That isn’t me; I am just caught up in the moment.
For the past five months, I had been training for a marathon. I am not traditionally what you would call a runner. I have always enjoyed being active, but there was always a ball to chase or a person to run after. Maybe it was turning 30 years old or realizing that I had not been out of my comfort zone for a while, but I decided to train to run 42.2km. As I embarked on the journey of training for something unknown, I quickly realized I was on my own. Nobody was going to make sure I was getting to practice or training on time. Running is a one-person team. Except for people supporting you along the way, you are alone when you cross the finish line.
Throughout my training, I have reflected a lot on my competitive nature. As I became a part of this running culture, I noticed it was very easy to let my old, angry, competitive nature rear its ugly head. I would immediately begin comparing run pace times, gear, and muscle pain to where I “should” be. My knees let me know early on that I had an inflated view of where I actually was. My competitive nature was leading me somewhere my body couldn’t handle. Stewing in my emotions after a run that didn’t go exactly the way I wanted, I was icing my knees and was reminded of the text, Romans 12:9-10.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.”
“Outdo one another in showing honour.” These words over the last five months have haunted me and how I think about my competitive nature. Like the chill from the ice pack, these words would make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What if my competitive nature was designed to be used for God’s glory? Stay with me here. What if this part of my life that I have compartmentalized to only be in the sports world or my career was designed to show the love of Christ? Instead of looking at life as a giant dodgeball game, approaching people with a ready-to-fire attitude, perhaps the competition that God wants to see is with his children showing too much love to one another. Maybe God is looking for people who will open the doorway too early for someone. Or perhaps he is looking for somebody who genuinely cares about what’s going on in their grocery store cashier’s life and asks so many questions about their life that you hold up the line. Perhaps he desires for us to outdo each other in doing good.
This resonates so sweetly for the writer of Romans because he found himself on the wrong team. Paul the Apostle was a zealous Jew that lived most of his life defending God with a selfish, competitive nature. He knew he was right and wanted to show every early Christian where being wrong would lead you. After a miraculous conversion, he decided not to take away that part of his life but rather use it for the glory of God. He encourages the church in verse 10 to “Love one another with brotherly affection.” Paul’s competitive nature didn’t go away; it just changed directions. He knew what it felt like to do wrong to his fellow man and wanted his whole life to be the opposite. What was once selfish ambition was now gracious sacrifice. A life entirely devoted to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Is there a more inspiring picture? God knows us deeper than we even know ourselves. He wants to use every part of our being for His glory. What was once used for evil is now turned to good.
If this last year has taught us anything, it’s that we are not in control. Any control we thought we had went out of the window. The one thing we can be sure of is how we act in this world. When a crisis comes into our lives, it has this magnifying effect. Blemishes turned into scabs; cuts became wounds. If your competitive nature was selfish, it only got worse in this time. The Apostle Paul lets us know what outdoing one another in honour looks like; “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” He goes on and applies some more healthy conviction, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all.”
We are all running a race. Sure some of us are running faster than others; some have even started later than others. The thing that we all have in common is how we are running it. So I want to ask you a question, how are you showing honour to one another? Has the last year shown you things that you aren’t proud of? Have you allowed your competitive nature to direct your conversations so that you are always right? Have certain relationships gone by the wayside? Don’t let that wear you down. There’s hope, grace, and love for you.
My prayer for you today is to let God take hold of your competitive nature and make it an advantage for the kingdom of God. That you would look at every moment, not to get caught up in emotion but to consider love, let the love God has displayed determine how you interact with people. Let relationships be about serving and sacrificing. I pray that you would be competitive about smiling at people. You would get caught saying thank you too much. You would interrupt your day to pray for someone God has put on your heart. And that your schedule would fill up with other people’s to-do lists. I pray that love would be your competitive advantage.