Free competition: good or bad?

Okay, so today it’s the same question, part two. Asked a different way, do you believe Christianity should declare a monopoly in the USA and then discourage all other competition? Or should we do as Elijah did in his land of Israel in relation to the prophets of Baal during the time of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel?

How we answer such questions as these depends on whether we think it is most likely people today will prefer a product that stands alone with no allowed competition or else prefer one that has been demonstrated to have a superior value or performance.   Use your own judgment, but base this on your own personal preference before answering these initial questions.

I remember well my days back in college, the early 1960’s, when I raised my text book money by selling Fuller Brush products door to door. Best selling products were always those I could demonstrate alongside the current brand being used by the home occupant. In those days, many housewives there in central Kansas would obsess about such things as yellowing linoleum on the kitchen floors. Sounds a bit weird if you weren’t around at that time, but the whole idea was to compare our clean to their clean, our shine to their shine when it came to the household furniture or flooring. I trusted our Fuller Brush products enough to do a side by side comparison.

Elijah trusted God enough to do a little demo found in I Kings 18. Remember it? The prophets of Baal would call on their god to spontaneously ignite a fire on a pile of dry wood to roast their own animal burnt offering. They tried all day long and nothing. They had nothing. Then he had the King’s servants pour multiple pots full of water upon his own wood pile supporting his animal offering to God. Totally soaked. Elijah prayed. And instantly God ignited a fire within that wet wood that achieved what Baal could not do in a day using even dry wood.

This morning in my devotional time I continued my study of John’s Gospel, where I’m now in the 13th chapter. That’s the one where Jesus is nearing the crucifixion and having one last evening with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. You remember the scene where he washes everyone’s feet? Even Judas who betrays him. Even Peter who denies him. And then do you remember what Jesus says in 13:14-15? “So if I, our Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.

We Christians say we are saved by our faith in God’s grace in Jesus Christ. But in a fair and free competition with people of other faiths, would we stand a chance of winning because our faith is in some way superior? Dare we compare God’s grace that loves enemies, washes the feet of our own betrayers and deniers, forgives our killers, that kind of thing? Could Jesus stand that kind of demonstration? That kind of side by side comparison? Or should we leave our faith inside the sales-kit, and just tell people ours is better? Can’t we just go around the world telling people this faith in grace has the power to save them?  Or do they need to see it demonstrated?

Jesus seemed to think we should show and not just tell. He seemed to say, okay he actually commanded, that we should love one another as he has loved us, betrayers and deniers, sinners all. We should love our enemies as he has loved his. And why? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” — JN 13:35.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that God’s equivalent of the wet wood fire igniter today is God’s ability to love enemies that betray, deny, persecute — okay, even torture and kill. Nor any doubt that if we were to demonstrate God’s love in today’s world, many others would join us in coming to faith. No doubt that in a side by side comparison in a world full of enemies, faith in Jesus to save by grace would win against faith in anyone or anything else on earth. I have no doubt whatsoever.

Or do I?

I think back to the story of the great Wallenda crossing over Niagara Falls on a tightrope while pushing a wheelbarrow. Across the falls stood a man who was asked, “Do you believe he can make it all the way across here pushing that wheelbarrow?” The man says, “I have no doubt he can do it.” Wallenda crosses safely. Again the man is asked the same question of whether he believes Wallenda can push the wheelbarrow back to other side safely? He again says, “I have faith he can do that.” Then came the test of that faith. The man was told to now get into that wheelbarrow.

Friends, we as Christians have a challenge on our hands today. Even more than a challenge, it’s a commandment (JN 13:34). Can God’s grace in us help us love our enemies as that grace helped Jesus first do for us? Can that grace really save us? If so, it’s time for us to get in the wheelbarrow. It’s time for our demonstration.

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” — JN 13:34-35.

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