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WINNERS AND LOSERS

Sport dominates the schedules of the broadcasters at the moment. Indeed, if you are not interested in tennis, it is almost impossible to find anything to watch at all on BBC television. But at any time of the year, the lives for many people are dominated by sport in one form or another, if not in playing it, then in following those who do: fans and spectators. The essence of sport is winning and losing. The winners enjoy the rewards of fame and adulation, as well as huge sums of prize money. But what of the losers?

It used to be a form of insult and scorn in the playground to be called a ‘loser’. It was not so much a reference to being a loser in some sporting competition, but a judgement on someone as generally worthless. Either way, being ‘a loser’ in life is damaging to our own sense of self-esteem: what am I worth? I wonder how any of us evaluate ourselves. Is it whether we have succeeded in any walk of life that we have chosen? Not just sports, but careers or relationships? As you read this, I wonder how you would categorise yourself? A success, or a failure? A winner or a loser?

At the most important level our basic sense of self-worth comes from our childhood and parenting. Were we loved and made to feel valued and cared for by a mother and a father? What we need from the cradle onwards is to feel that we are valued, for ourselves, not for anything we have done or any gifts we may possess. There is no substitute for having had parents who were, in one sense, indifferent to the level of our achievements or the richness of our gifts. But we all need to be sensitive at every stage of life to how we treat other people. Do we treat them as treasures or as rubbish?

In the end I guess that we all have some achievements of which we are proud, but also failures which we regret. We may have had to fight for some sense of self-esteem, or we may have had an underlying sense that, whatever we have or have not achieved, we are loved. What we all need, beyond all human judgement is a sense that we are loved by God. We can only find that assurance by getting to know Jesus.

There was no judgement in Jesus, either according to our status in the world or according to our wealth or according to our deeds. His mercy and compassion were universal, and his promises for everyone who would accept them: from Nicodemus the Pharisee and the rich young man, to the woman taken in adultery and the penitent thief on the Cross. The Beatitudes are all addressed to people who, in one sense or another, are ‘losers’: the poor, the sad, the humble, the unsatisfied. We are all promised love and acceptance in the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave up his life for you and me, whoever we are; in order to make a way for us all to be accepted into the Kingdom of God and to have everlasting life. That is the ultimate success beside which all worldly successes and achievements are but as dust.

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