Toward the top of the list of items that really irk me about this world is the headlong rush to win at all costs with little or no regard for the loser. Victory is fine, but the taunting attitude that increasingly accompanies it only serves to stir up negative emotions ranging from simmering resentment to white-hot anger. Even comments intended as harmless teasing can be misconstrued. (If you've ever been on the receiving end of an "I-told-you-so!" comment, even when said in jest, you know exactly how this feels.) Winning is apparently not enough anymore. Completely vanquishing one's opponent and rubbing their nose in the outcome to the point of utter humiliation has somehow seeped into the equation as well. This dark art form is practiced by virtually all circles of society to varying degrees. Athletes and politicians have mastered it in their respective arenas, while stalwart fans and party hard-liners celebrate its use to further their side's ambitions. Whatever became of good sportsmanship? Where is the sense of common purpose upon which our country was founded? None of this serves the greater good, and Christians - who should know better - need to lead the way back to gentility.
The Chinese expression for extreme humiliation translates into English as "losing face." Americans switch that around to form the well-known idiom "saving face," which means keeping one's dignity intact. This concept plays an important part in any healthy relationship, as it leaves the door to reconciliation open by minimizing the embarrassment suffered by the wrongdoer. Without it, the parties are much more likely to remain separated. So it is with God, as well.
Our Father dispenses advice on this subject throughout His Word. "I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence," writes the Psalmist in chapter 39 verse 1. Proverbs 24:17 adds, "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice." Moving to the New Testament, there are examples such as: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." (Gal 6:1); "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (Eph 4:2); "Those who oppose him [the Lord's servant] he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Tim 2:25-26). Rather than encouraging believers to unleash abrasive words and unloving actions against those who do not yet recognize the error of their way or want to admit their sin, as seems to be in vogue right now, these examples clearly demonstrate God's instruction that those in the right should make a path for those in the wrong to find their way back.
Jesus' mastery of this notion is on full display in John 8:1-11 where He sidesteps the obvious opportunity to condemn an adulterous woman and lecture her duplicitous accusers to instead diffuse the situation by offering face saving reconciliation to all parties. Even modern day readers cannot help but be impressed by the deep lessons in this 2000 year old account, perhaps feeling convicted to change their own lives in one or more ways as a result.
The ultimate embodiment of "saving face" is Christ's sacrifice on the cross, of course. Even as believers, we could not enter into eternal life without the face saving bridge God engineered for His fallen creation. It is only reasonable then that those of us who have already accepted this heavenly gesture of grace and mercy and share in His complete victory over sin and death should be bound by a sacred duty to find some means to give the "losers" in the game of eternal salvation some means to "save face" too.
Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs