Let the Games Begin!
The swimmers ready themselves. The tension mounts. And in a moment…they’re off! With startling speed, the race begins. For agonizing moments, the competitors give everything, straining their muscles and their endurance. Finally, they near the finish line…it’s nearly a tie…so close that you can hardly tell who the winner is!
The 31st Olympiad has begun. Hundreds are competing for a limited number of gold medals. But (in this fictional scenario), these Olympic competitors have decided to compete without an umpire.
Just imagine. The race ends, the swimmers get out of the pool…and (with loving tones and gentle discussions) kindly and thoughtfully agree among themselves who the winner was. The loser (who was only three milliseconds behind the winner) readily admits that he did, indeed, come in second, and that his years of training and preparation was insufficient to gain the gold medal.
Obviously, this situation is unthinkable. There is a reason that nearly every sporting competition has a judge – an umpire, that is – who holds the final say. What you may not realize is that you, also, need an umpire in your life.
The Christian’s Umpire
The Bible specifically names an umpire for the Christian’s heart. In Colossians 3:15 Paul said, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
There is more to this sentence than first meets the eye. Paul did not simply mean “make the peace of Christ your ruler, the one who is in charge of your hearts.” That may be included, but he meant more than that. Paul used a word that could be translated ‘to arbitrate’ or ‘to be the umpire.’ The idea is simple: “Let the peace of Christ be the umpire in your hearts.”
As you watch the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, you are watching an ancient Greek custom. The Greeks were fond of sports, and they often organized festive public games. Wrestlers, javelin throwers, boxers, discus-throwers, and chariot-racers all competed for fame and honor. But the Greek games were more than just a group of sportsmen getting together for a fun time. Like the Olympics today, there were judges who were in charge of determining who lost and who won.
Like the Greek games of old, our hearts need an umpire. The Bible submits a nomination to this office: the peace of Christ!
This all gets even more dramatic when the context of this verse is examined. Paul just described two opposing ‘teams’ or groups that are vying for control of our hearts – one group consists of immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath malice, slander, and obscene talk. The players on the other team are compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love.
Both sides claim the victory. Who is the winner? “Let the peace of Christ rule.”
Olympic judges not only decide who the winner of a competition is, but their choice has authority behind it. The judges’ decision is not a suggestion!
If our hearts are arbitrated by the peace of Christ, it is not a suggestion for us to take or leave. It is God’s authority intervening in our hearts, and his decision must be final. If we view it as a suggestion, we are breaking the law of the game!
Called to Peace
“…to which indeed you were called in one body.”
Perhaps the biggest reason why ‘the Peace of Christ’ should be chosen as the arbitrator is because we have been called to it. The word to indicates purpose – it is what we are seeking for. This is the reason that Paul gives for the command. God has called us into his kingdom, He has chosen us, and one reason that he has chosen us is so that we will inherit the peace of Christ.
Paul also specifies that we were called to this peace in one body. God did not call us individually but corporately. As one scholar notes, “You are joined together into one body through God’s goodness, so that you might help one another, as fellow members.”
The Umpire’s Decision
How do you let the peace of Christ rule, or act as umpire, in your heart? Well, ‘team evil’ is tricky. They plan to grab the gold medal before a decision is reached. This is like the Olympic athlete running over to the judges’ table and grabbing the prize before the judges even come to decision!
Don’t let that happen. As a Christian, the peace of Christ arbitrates in your heart – your innermost being. This refers to your emotions, feelings, desires, and will. That is the stadium where the competition takes place.
But how do you let a concept, an idea like ‘the peace of Christ,’ arbitrate in your heart? This isn’t an easy question to answer. But we do know that peace is given to us by Christ. Every Christian has it. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
If this peace is ever going to rule in your heart, you have to cultivate it. This happens through the ‘renewal of the mind,’ as we learn in Romans 12:2.
Renew your mind by cultivating Biblical truth in it. Meditate on it. Let it sink in deeply. Give it the highest place of honor – the judges’ booth – in your life.
As your mind is renewed by truth, fight against sin. ‘Team evil’ will stop at nothing to win. Like an ancient Greek game, the wrestling will not end until one side or the other is incapacitated. Yes, the athletes of antiquity were brutal, fighting to the bitter end, maiming, biting, and stabbing each other, in a desperate attempt to win. Evil is the same way. You have been warned.
But don’t go about this struggle on your own. Remember, this is not just ‘peace.’ It is ‘the peace of Christ.’ It is a God-given peace, not something that you can manufacture. It is a peace that surpasses understanding. If you want this peace, you need to know the giver. Get to know Jesus Christ. Learn about him, and learn from him. Make his peace the model of your life, as it infuses your heart one drop at a time.
Then, with the peace of Christ arbitrating in your heart…let the games begin!