Theology matters. It isn’t just some mental exercise. Theology has practical implications and impact.
A theology of winning is placing winning as extremely important. A theology of winning believes that there are winners and losers and that it is better to be a winner than a loser. A theology of winning believes that there are only two sides and that one side must lose so that the other side will win. A theology of winning believes that there is a limited set of whatever is being fought over. A theology of winning believes there is an us and there is a them. A theology of winning believes in tribal identity as the most important identity. A theology of winning doesn’t make room for God in the public sphere. A theology of winning believes in works righteousness – the idea that I have to work hard to earn what I get and when I get it, I deserve it because I am the one who won it.
A great example of the theology of winning in our current context is the government shutdown. The language that comes out of this showdown is that only one side will win, therefore each side is doubling down.
The theology of winning also has consequences. A theology of winning makes no room for the development of relationships. It is not based on trust of others. It is self-centered and selfish. Those not in the fight don’t even count – they are mere collateral.
A theology of mercy and justice on the other hand believes that there is only an us. A theology of mercy and justice sees the damage done to all sides in a fight and believes that the benefit of the most people far outweighs the will of a few people and how they look or how they benefit. A theology of mercy and justice starts from a foundation of trust and truth. A theology of mercy and justice believes in win-win-win situations. A theology of mercy and justice works to correct systems so that those who have no power are empowered and included so that all can be more fully who they are called to be. A theology of mercy and justice seeks God’s will as the primary focus of how decisions are made. A theology of mercy and justice recognizes that what we have isn’t ours – we are stewards of it. And we are grateful stewards and we seek to serve one another.
A great example of the theology of mercy and justice would be a food ministry. A ministry that offers food to the hungry, but more. A ministry that nourishes people in relationship and community. A ministry that advocates for changes to policy and culture to ensure that no one goes hungry. A ministry that seeks to heal the brokenness of the world and one that recognizes that as long as one person is hungry, then we are all missing out on fully being who we are called to be and missing out on the wholeness of community.
A theology of winning may benefit a few – at least in appearance. But in reality, it benefits no one – not even the winners. They must struggle to hold onto what they have and keep others away. How is that winning? There is no rest for the winners or losers.
A theology of mercy and justice benefits the many at its core. It offers rest. It equates all who follow this path as children of God. A theology of mercy and justice has no desire to equate identity of each person with what they have or what they do. We are made in the image of God and that is what our identity is. We receive mercy from God. We participate in the unfolding of God’s kingdom, which reigns with justice.
Theology matters. The theology we follow has consequences and impacts lives. Good theology improves lives. Bad theology traps people in lies and division and power. Good theology empowers people. Bad theology enslaves people and transforms people into objects.
Theology matters. It impacts lives.