The Losers Who Keep on Winning

We love winners. The only time that we sometimes start to like losers is when they start to win – then we call them underdogs. But sometimes, we like that losers are losers, because they used to be winners, and we didn’t like them when they were winners. Besides, underdogs can be dangerous. In The Hunger Games, Donald Sutherland’s President is told, “Everybody loves an underdog.” He responds, “I don’t.” He then points out that the underdog districts are underdogs for a reason. They contain valuable natural resources that the Capitol exploits. There is a fine line between an underdog winning, and a exploited group rebelling.

So, what is the Church? A winner? A loser? Are they the exploitative Capitol? Or are they the exploited underdog? Do you want them to win, or lose? The overwhelming sense in our society is that the Church has lost. It’s a loser. And that’s a good thing, because apparently the Church was once a terrible winner. It seems that wider society, generally, sees the Church as a tired, fat, old Capitol. The underdogs are rising against it, and when they win, everybody will cheer.

But who is this “underdog”? What has the Church been supposedly oppressing? Has the Church been oppressing the poor? Really? That’s news to the countless millions, if not billions of poor people that Christians have helped over the centuries, thanks to groups like the Salvation Army, or the Franciscans, to name just a few. Often the only people who stood with the poor, the quintessential underdogs, were the Christians. If the Church loses, believe me, it will not be a good thing for the poor. And who is telling society, again and again, that the Church does not stand with the underdog? Isn’t it the media, who are run by the wealthy, the influential, and the powerful? If anybody is the Capitol, surely, it’s the media, not the Church.

In reality, people have always found ways of making the Church sound like we are losing, and that it’s good that we lose. And then we’ve won.

Christianity began in the Roman Empire, and was persecuted with increasing vigour until everybody thought we’d lost. Right at that moment, we took over Rome. Then, when the Roman Empire crumbled, everybody thought we’d crumble with it. The barbarians, with their pagan gods, would win, and we’d lose. Then we took over the barbarian Franks and Britons. Then, when the barbarians gave way to the Vikings and the growth of feudalism, we took over the Vikings (now called Normans) and feudalism. And when out of the tattered remnants of the English Civil War, secularism promised the end of Christianity, within a century the Wesleyan Revivals spilled over the nation. At every point, people said we had lost.

And here is an amazing realisation. We have often been the underdogs. And then, we lose.  We die. In fact, it’s actually when we die, that we usually win. G. K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”[1] Easter is about Jesus being the Underdog, that everybody wanted to lose. Good Friday felt really good for the Pharisees, Pilate’s Roman government, the masses. They thought they had won. But Easter Sunday shows that Jesus wins. Always. And Jesus, through His Body on earth now, the Church, has been doing the same thing, over and over, ever since.

Whether you are a Christian or not, you may think that the Church today is dying. You may think our ethics is archaic, that our credibility is shot, that we are an exploitative Capitol that robs from the poor and downtrodden underdog. If you think that, I’d ask you, firstly, to check your source – Capitols from Rome, to Paris, to Mecca, to Moscow, to Hollywood have been saying that about us for centuries. Most of those who said such things are now gone. You don’t even know their names. But we are still here. I invite you to join the everwinning underdog, the Church, as they serve the everwinning Lord Jesus Christ.

Matt Gray


[1]    G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (New York, NY: Dodd  Mead & Co., 1925), chap. 2.6.

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2 responses to “The Losers Who Keep on Winning

  1. Thanks Matt – great historical reflection. Who would have thought history could be inspiring?! … Perhaps the only question for me is whether “take over” is the right descriptive of what the church did. Is “take over” consonant with leaven gradually spreading out, or seed going to the ground to die (a resurrection image to be sure, as it springs to new life). Perhaps “take over” matches the mustard tree/bush, which spreads like a weed and the more you strike it the more it spreads? Basic point, “take over” sounds like Christ against Culture, where the Christ’s church wins.

    Perhaps what we like most about the underdog is not simply their tenacity and that they finally win, but they seem surprised when it happens. In essence, it’s their humility that is most winsome.

    Love the Chesterton quote, and the whole trust of the article. (And I enjoyed Hunger Games – nice connection.)

    Keep inspiring,

    dave

  2. It’s a fair qualification, Dave. Definitely was thinking more from the mustard seed/weed perspective there. In fact, sometimes “taking over” is actually one of the first stages in us dying, again. The Church dies in any number of ways, but obesity has been our killer on several occasions!

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