The Greeks and Roman loved competition and for them winning was as important as it is for Donald Trump. But Romans and Greeks also believed that it was important to win honorably. Socrates set an example by sticking by his principles even though it cost him his life. And Jesus set an even higher standard when he voluntarily went to his death in order to redeem humanity. He spoke these unforgettable words to his followers; "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matt 16:26)
These words have inspired non-Christians as well as Christians for the past two thousand years. From St Martin (the pacifist saint) to Martin Luther King, people of conscience have come to see that winning isn't everything. Even the pagans knew that. But Christians above all know that what really matters is a moral victory.
During the next four years, our faith will no doubt be tested in countless ways. We will be tempted to lose faith, or to compromise our values, or even to give up and go shopping (as many Americans have seemingly done already). But the apostle Paul reminds us that we are called not to win the race, but to complete it as best we can, and to be faithful:
I love these words, spoken from the heart from a man who knew he was about to die. Yesterday Jill, my mother-in-law Donna, and I went to the Art Museum in Santa Barbara and I saw a painting by Jean-Baptiste Corot the touched my heart. Corot painted this landscape in his final days and it vividly conveys the darkness of dusk. The trees are black and ominous, and there is a faint rim of red along the horizon--a pale glimmering of sunlight. In the foreground, however, you see the dark silhouettes of nymphs dancing, one holding up a tambourine. This type of painting, called a souvenir, reminds us that cultures and religion decline, yet remain hauntingly alive in our collective memory. It was a final message by the artist, much like the ending of Zorba the Greek. In the end, everything we hoped for may fail, but that's not the final word. If we are willing to dance, and willing to use our God-given talents in the face of darkness, what appears to be a sunset may in fact be a sunrise.
6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. ( Timothy: 4).