Unity Amidst Competition

Hello SVC Community,

Usually, I wait until the end of the week because I respect the sanctity of your inbox after a weekend of unread and unanswered messages. So, I will keep this one short, but I had to share this with you.

Last Friday, we took our high school student leadership team over to Capistrano Valley Christian to meet with their student leadership team. We had breakfast, played a few mixer games, and got to know one another. Then, we launched into the topic of the day … Christian unity. Our theme verse was Colossians 3:13-14 — “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” The hour ended with discussion of how our two schools can partner together in a service project for the city of San Juan Capistrano. It was a beautiful day!

Now, I know this might sound shocking, especially given the proximity to our first SVC vs. CVC athletic contest of the year. (In case you aren’t aware, we play them in football this Friday night at 7:30 pm at Laguna Hills High School. Be there … it’s a great rivalry!) Now, I love sports and I love to win. The only thing that makes competition fun is that there is a winner and a loser. Otherwise, we would just go throw the ball around, have hang-out fun time, and go eat ice cream together. Sports are designed to be competitive and it’s good for kids to learn to compete and to win or lose with class. I would argue that when two Christian school compete, it should be even more intense. There should be an underlying belief and commonality that unites us, even in the spirit of competition, and actually frees us to compete harder. The example I used with the kids on Friday was a one-on-one basketball game between brothers. I love my brother. He’s my best friend and my greatest competitor. To this day, if we play one-on-one, one of us is probably going to end up bruised or with a bloody nose. But, he is my brother first and my competitor second. No matter what happens in the game, we are going to love each other and support each other for the rest of our lives. And because we know that nothing that happens in the course of the game can actually damage this bond, we compete as hard as we possibly can.

Now, here is where this gets real. I know that there has been some bad blood between our two schools in the past. But, when I watched the kids conversing together and praying together last Friday, I realized that this isn’t coming from them. These kids are the same. They are navigating the same joys and struggles. They use the same methods to get a prom date or pass an AP exam. They go to the same youth groups and churches. They are on the same mission. They share the same love for Christ and the same heart for service.

I am so worn out by the dualistic nature of 21st century America. If you love one thing, you have to hate the other. We see it in athletics, business, politics, and, unfortunately, the church. This is not a new phenomenon. It is our human nature to exalt ourselves at the expense of others. And, because the church is made up of humans, as long as there have been different churches, there has been rivalry between them.

Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 3. Apparently, an argument had broken out within competing sects of the church as to who was the true leader of the church. Some were following a teacher named Apollos and some were following Paul. But, in the process, they were discrediting the mission of the other teacher. Check this out:

“3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, I follow Paul, and another, I follow Apollos, are you not mere human beings?”

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

Oh my goodness! Talk about a convicting couple of verses! Paul says it right there. If there is jealousy and quarrelling among God’s people as to who is a better representation of God … who is a better teacher … who is a better pastor … who is a better church … who is a better school, we are acting like mere humans and we are no different than the world. Instead, what if we actually bought into the fact that God was in charge and, no matter which of us he chooses to use for his purpose, it is HIS purpose that matters. It’s not about our pride, our scores, our enrollment numbers, our press, or our success. It is about the work of God being done through whomever he uses!

So, I would ask that we try to rid our minds of such dualism. I want our school to thrive, but I also want CVC and Crean Lutheran to thrive. I want my church to thrive, but I also want Compass and Mariners to thrive. Our most important goal is to advance the Kingdom of God and, whether that happens at our school or at their school, if the Kingdom is being advanced and kids are being impacted, that is cause for celebration.

Have a great week,

Erick Streelman
Head of Schools

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