December 10, 2012
Some times, some things just don’t seem right.
We have an internal clock that is culturally set to move into holiday mode during Thanksgiving week. Whatever your religious affiliations, “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men” seems like a reasonable proposition, and folks tend to smile – and, yield – more during December.
Unless… you operate in the hostile environment of what’s called “The Beltway.” We have a non-state – we call it a “District” – where the practice of nice is, apparently, an experience that is suspended.
In the 50 States and beyond (that’s a shout-out to my Canadian friends/readers!), relationships are the defining dimension of life… and relationships are founded on the principle of “Give and Take.”
If you’re a sophisticated, scholarly type, you would know it as quid pro quo (that’s Latin for the same thing: this for that, or give and take). In schoolyard terms, it just means that you have to trade for what you want. “I’ll let you play on my kickball team if you give me your cupcake” is the earliest form of friendly negotiation. Finding something you have of value – and then offering it up for something of comparable value that is controlled by someone else – is the way the Game of Life is played.
Unless you’re in the Beltway; there, it’s “winner take all.” The person or party who claims “Winner” status at any level becomes the Beltway Bully; everyone else is expected to roll over and play dead, it seems.
And then comes Christmas. Did you feel the change in the air? What came wafting in with the Christmas breeze?
That is the moment when quid pro quo was suspended. That is the blip in history when the Winner did not take all; instead, the Winner gave all. That was – and, is – the ultimate exception to the unending rule of “justice.” If equity is determined at the objective balance scale of right and wrong, the even-Stephen, bubble-in-the-middle equilibrium of the universe has just been suspended. How?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
The creation just wobbled. The Creator just tipped the scales of give and take, forever. What in the world is He doing?
That verse tells the story of Christmas, Easter, and everything that preceded and followed both. It is the vital variable in the Story. The God Who is the Winner (caps required) just blew the doors off the courtroom: He gave everything… and got nothing in return. He doesn’t do seminars on negotiation; His model is one that no one would want to emulate. He came to the table with His Son – the One of highest value to the Father – and He gave him up to get… us.
That “us” includes everyone who agrees with me… and everyone who doesn’t. It includes everyone I value as “like me”… and everyone I devalue because they “aren’t like me.” It includes all of the people on Capitol Hill in Washington… and everyone on death row, in every prison. It includes the 47% who “are on the dole”… and the 1% who “aren’t paying their fair share.” However you slice the demographic pie, it’s all of us, traded for Jesus. He was born, so that we could be born, again. He would die, so we could live. God gave, so that we could take. With Him, there is no negotiation…
Christmas turns us all into “givers;” the problem is, we – as consumers – will spend a month making sure that we balance the scales, and trade gifts of equal value to our friends and contacts. Givers? We are drawn to the idea, but have the hardest time doing it.
We’re trying to live up to Christmas, but it’s beyond us. We still assume that winners get more than they gave. Meet the Ultimate Winner: He’s the One who Gave, without limits… and all He received was what He deserved already: the worship of the few who respond to His Gift.
May we imitate the Giver… in a world of takers,