How to Win as a Christian

Over the course of the past few years, I have become an avid board game fan. It’s not an uncommon scene in my house for my wife and I to be sitting on the floor over a board with a set of cards in our hands, trying to out-think the other and come out on top. The truth is we are both highly competitive, and each of us really like to win…

As someone who likes to win, returning to the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is always a fascinating time. I’m all for unique and unexpected strategies, they keep things interesting, but Jesus’s was so counterintuitive that I consistently have to just be in awe of it, especially at this time of year. Jesus redefines what it means to win, and as Christians, it is vitally important that we follow his example, especially when our cultural climate is one that is constantly calling us to go to war.

Since the beginning of the story, humans have tended to see each other as their enemies. When we feel threatened by another human, we label them as the opponent, and we use every weapon in our arsenal to subdue them and remain on top.

As he enters this reality, we expect Jesus to do the same. We can certainly think of plenty of people who threaten him and his goals, and knowing the kind of power he has access to, we might expect that winning looks something like an army of angels razing the religious leaders of Israel, Rome, and any other sinners who would dare to oppose him.

As Paul reflects on Jesus’s life however, he takes note of the shocking and scandalous way in which Jesus redefined the game. He says this is Colossians 2:15…

"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him"

Jesus began his victory strategy by redefining the enemy. Instead of viewing antagonistic human beings as his rivals, he looked through them at, as Paul calls them, “the rulers and authorities”. Jesus believed that there were real, spiritual evils animating his human adversaries, and rather than crushing his human enemies and embracing the strategies of the enemy, he turns his gaze on the demonic forces of evil.

How does one defeat these forces? Jesus believed that evil had only one true weapon: death. Since the beginning, these evil forces lied to Adam and his descendants, telling them that they could only truly rule if they wielded their power against each other. They could only be great if they wielded death against those who threaten them.

And so Christ did something unexpected. As all hell literally broke lose through his betrayal, trial, and execution, Jesus let these demonic evil forces do their worst to him. He let sin and evil destroy him on the cross. He let it use the fullness of death to seemingly defeat him… and then he rose. Paul calls it a “disarming”. Jesus proved that death, the strongest tool the forces of evil have, was not as powerful as it seems. When a person chooses to partner with God and entrust themselves to His life-giving love, evil and death are powerless. Jesus, the perfect God-man, defeated death, and now, through his spirit, he offers the same power to his followers.

This Easter season, I would call us to remember this definition of victory that Christ has given us. First, As Paul notes in Ephesians 6:12. Our fight is against the powers that animate human evil, not humans themselves. Voices in our culture offer us plenty of lists of people who need to be defeated for Christians to come out on top, but as Christians, we look past these and focus our attention on the true enemy. Second, our strategy for winning will likely not result in a privileged place in society, nor should it. Jesus’s victory brought him to his death, and until we are willing to follow Jesus there, we will never be able to expose the powerlessness of evil and the power of God’s self-sacrificing love. That is our calling as Christians, and lucky for us, we have a leader who has done it himself, and empowers us to continue his work.

While it's a bit early, I've been enjoying this Easter song alongside my meditations- let it be a reminder of the victory!

Dan Vandzura