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Big 2

Last October some friends introduced me to Big 2, a popular card game where the order of suits differs from that which I had learned from infancy. ‘Hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades’ had flowed into my psyche with my mother’s milk, and trying to unlearn the order was like trying to write with my left hand. In Big 2, the order goes ‘spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds’, and I made a valiant effort during the game to make the paradigm shift. But old patterns die hard, and I was grateful that the stakes were low.

The new order reminded me of the challenge of living out the teachings of Jesus, and especially those that involve an inversion of the patterns that we learn from childhood. Like ‘the first will be first, and anyone who tries to jump the queue puts their life at risk’. But Jesus said, ‘The last will be first’, by which he meant (in his story, recorded in Matthew 20, to illustrate the point), that the governing principle of the kingdom is not a mentality of merit, but a generous grace and a gracious generosity.

There is of course a place in this world for queues and for merit awards. But Christians are called to a life that is dominated by something else, where enemies are loved, and opponents are prayed for, and ‘tax-collectors’ are greeted with genuine respect. The ways of this world however are not unlearned overnight, nor are the ways of the kingdom mastered in a moment, but the more the game is played, the better one gets at recognising the order, and following suit.

DM 12th February 2014

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