We are a competitive lot. In most pursuits we'd not settle for a tie. When the final scores are tabulated we want to be one up. For the not-sports-minded readers that means we usually want to score one more point than our opponents. One up means one more home-run, touchdown, basket, blue ribbon, check mark, hole-in-one, or ace in the hole than the guy in the other dugout, or wherever. It's part of the reason we've seen so much competing data about Covid-19. Every expert, whether medical, political, cultural, social, educational, or ecclesiastical has the innate scoring compulsion to be one up on all the others. You know, the one to expose the hidden factors, the underneath realities, the portion of this mystery that everyone else missed.
It's what contentious people do! They tend to lift themselves a notch or two above everyone else. They are argumentative, critical, and provocative. Of course, such contention isn't always negative. The folks over in the psychology department applaud those with the gift of raising questions, causing further examination, and having us take a second look at life presumptions. In many instances they are the agents of personal growth, additional learning, and moving beyond the conventions we are so ready to accept. I mean, get real. Many of life's greatest advances have been because someone contended with what was generally accepted in an area of life. Where would we be without a Gutenberg, Edison, Ford, or a Berners-Lee (look it up)?
Getting even used to be the basic equalizer in life disputes. Somebody berates us, and we berate them back. Of course, that was then and this is now. Getting even isn't fashionable anymore. There's the one up thing, our human reaction to put downs in exponential times. And, it's true in just about every dimension of life, even in the modern church. Christians know how to play the one up games too. And, that is a sad commentary on our times. My personal Christian worldview abhors the gamesmanship of getting even or going one up on anyone else. It's one of the reasons dealing with contentious people is such a nasty thing. Sometimes our response to those who contend, even about matters of faith, are as deplorable as the contention was in the first place.
The Apostle Paul and Simon Peter wrote about our responses to contentious people. Take note---
See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to
1 Thessalonians 5: 15, ESV
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you
were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
1 Peter 3: 9, ESV
Two things strike me here. One is Paul's insistence that the Christian worldview should direct our reactions to one another, that is, to those in the community of faith, but also to everyone. Paul's instruction moves us beyond fellow believers to the people we encounter in every phase of life. Two, is Peter's counsel that people of faith should live contrary to the whims of culture, where getting even and going one up are facts of life.
Covid-19 has challenged all of us in many ways. Who of us doesn't have ideas about this virus and our reactions to it? And, yes, we have the freedom to express our thoughts and ideals and solutions. It's one of those woulda, coulda, shoulda deals. Can we join the clamor of argument and debate? Without a doubt. Should we? Not necessarily. We don't have to get even with anyone, or go one up on them in the public arena. Repaying evil for evil isn't the deal.
The Christian worldview, which I profess, should give me the heart to bless others, even when I disagree with them. One up isn't the scoring mechanism that builds the common good in most circumstances. It just builds strife. And, that's something contentious people just don't need more of.