Last year, I was invited to teach an ethics seminar for a chapter of chartered professional accountants in Burnaby. I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to show people the relevance of the gospel in what they do regardless whether they were Christian or not. I knew that one of the most talked about topics was the fierce competition among accounting firms and so, I entitled my ethics seminar as, “Agape-ing your competitors.”
Competition exists because of scarcity. Scarcity arises from the fact that there are a limited number of customers and resources. Scarcity is also implied whenever we use the adjective “best.” For example, whenever my 3 year old daughter Annabelle tells her cousin Tamara that she has the best chocolate chip cookie, Tamara sees competition because she wants Annabelle’s cookie no matter how many identical chocolate chip cookies I give her (some of you know what I’m talking about.) Therefore, how should we as Christians see our colleague who is also eyeing the same promotion? How should our companies see competitors who are also eyeing the same potential client or buyer? I was pondering over this question until my 3 year old daughter asked me to play a game with her.
While I was playing the matching game with my daughter, I noticed that she was building an insurmountable lead on me. In the end, it turned out that she pummeled me by a score of 29 to 1. This little rascal literally wiped the floor with me. However, I noticed that instead of feeling lost, angry, or jealous; I felt joy, happiness and even celebrated with my daughter for pummeling her daddy. Our competition not only built her up in developing her learning capacities and confidence, but she made me more aware of my fragile humility and poor memory (which, being aware of my defeat, my wife lovingly said “I told you so.”) Why did I react that way? It’s because I agape my daughter.
Can we agape our competitors the same way? As church planters and leaders, how do we see other churches in the same neighbourhood or that mega church over there? Do we see them as a threat waiting to eat us alive? Or, do we see agape competition? Agape competition is not about eating each other alive but through agape competition, we encourage each other to create innovative ways that not only redeem the industries and professions that we find ourselves in (even doing church,) but also ways to participate with God’s continuing work in bringing in the new kingdom. In my ministry, people frequently ask me how Christians should reveal the gospel in their workplaces. For starters, let’s agape our competitors! It doesn’t matter who wins. What matters is that our competition should produce fruitful and innovative things that build and nurture relationships, contribute to the betterment of our communities and most importantly, through our competition, we are making “crooked paths straight,” as God’s kingdom continues to break in.