I started my boycott of a popular brand in 2013. I stopped spending money on their shoes and apparel because of one ad. The advertisement was an image of a sports mega-star emblazoned with a quote that read “Winning takes care of everything.”
The ad made me cringe. It was run after the athlete’s return to sport. Many poor personal decisions had led to public scandal and the athletes’ subsequent hiatus. Now this company was hoping to resurrect the athlete’s professional image. I was not against redeeming the public image of a fallen-hero, I even cheered the (win-filled) return, but I did find this company’s advertising choice to be an improper message. Winning wasn’t going to take care of everything in life. I don’t have say over redemption and how that happens, but I do have say over how I spend my consumer dollars, and that company has been losing money from me for propagating a message that is incongruent with my heart.
What is it about us, our culture… why do we hold certain expectations and standards to certain people? Why do we hold both the professional and private lives of our heroes and heroines to a higher standard? I think it’s because we are told: “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” –Luke 48
I know popular athletic brands aren’t going to market this, but I believe a more accurate motto to adopt when it comes to redemption is “GOD takes care of everything.” I don’t mean to imply that focusing on winning is bad. God likes winning. He wants His team, His army to win.win.win. We can see evidence of that all throughout the Old Testament Bible, particularly in battle scenes. Some call the Old Testament God a God of war. When we survey the battles waged by God’s army, the Israelites, we get a glimpse into the character of God, a just coach through the wins, and a few losses too. Hope is Hard in a world where sin is present. Losses happen, so let’s take a look at one loss in the book of Joshua. I’ll set the scene: The Israelites are riding a high. God has brought them far. They have just come from a big win over the city of Jericho and are feeling confident, over-confident perhaps. What they don’t know is that their coach is angry, very angry as someone on the team did not follow the rules in the battle against Jericho “And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.”
Just one among them, of the thousands, had sinned by taking some of the spoils of war for himself. Here’s a great synopsis by David Peach of what happened next:
“Immediately following the battle of Jericho the Israelites went up to the city of Ai. The whole army did not go because it was a much smaller city than Jericho. However, they were turned away by the might of this small town. Thirty-six Hebrews died in the battle that should have been an easy win for them (Joshua 7:3-5).
God revealed to Joshua that there was sin in the camp. A man named Achan had taken gold, silver and garments from Jericho (Joshua 7:20-21). According to God’s plan, all the spoils from Jericho were to be dedicated to God. After that, God planned to allow the children of Israel to keep all future spoils. However, when Achan stole that which should have been dedicated to God he brought judgment on the people.
After Achan and all that he owned were stoned and burned (Joshua 7:25), Israel once again marched against the city of Ai. Again a partial army presented themselves to Ai. When the men of Ai came out against Israel, the Israelites fled in retreat. But this time their retreat was a tactical move to pull the men out of the city so that the rest of the army could enter Ai unabated and take the city (Joshua 8:3-8).”
Let’s break it down some more.
One guy (Achan) broke the rules. He stole from God. It was selfish, impatient sin.
God had a clear plan that wasn’t followed. He noticed the error of one. He wasn’t happy. Sin requires payment. God takes care of the sin. Then, God’s people win again. God takes care of everything, in His time, in His way. Thankfully, the New Testament God is not so much a God of war but a God of grace. His grace takes care of everything. We can choose to accept Jesus now as payment for our sin. We don’t have to face the wrath of an angry coach. Our selfish, impatient mistakes are covered. Our ultimate battle is already fought, and won. Our image in the sight of God is redeemed. Hope is a little less hard.