Most of us love to keep score. After all, it’s the way to determine whether someone is winning.
I was at one of my son’s soccer games a while back. This was one of those little league games where the kids are so young they just play and technically there is no score. I forgot this detail and asked out loud if anyone knew the score. There was a long silence. A few looked at me as if I had pulled the curtain back and revealed the Wizard of Oz as a fraud. And then something interesting happened. Two parents and three kids sitting around told me the score. They didn’t just reveal the score they stressed the fact that our side was winning. The ruse was up. Humans just can’t help it. Even when we’re not keeping score, we’re keeping score.
The score is essential in many areas. We want a winner and a loser. Few want to go to a college football game and watch teams play for nothing. We have certain expectations of our coaches, players and the type of season the team will have. But scorekeeping becomes dangerous when it infects every aspect of our lives.
When I first got married I was sitting with my father-in-law at Florida State’s Doak Campbell stadium. He pointed to the scoreboard and said with a smile, “It should read John 0, Mary 0.” He highlighted something very important that day with his joke. We tend to keep score in relationships, especially marriages. And anytime we start keeping score there is a winner and a loser, even if we are the only ones with the tally. There is always someone who is ahead or behind and it leads to death in relationships of all kinds.
God made a definitive statement about keeping score in relationships. He made it by laying down his life for people who did nothing to earn this gift and certainly didn’t deserve it; people like me and you. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). It wasn’t limited to certain people and didn’t take into account talents, efforts or any other scorekeeping trap of the world. God’s love isn’t fair – it is grace. It is one way love – unmerited favor. The only expectation is that we turn to him. When we do, this love transforms us.
What can we do about our need to keep score? This week, let’s lay down an expectation that leads to points on the board. An expectation we have for someone else and one for ourselves. Here is a simple, almost ridiculous, example-this week, even when it’s not your turn, take out the trash. We get so caught up in scorekeeping and who is supposed to do something. “It’s not my turn,” we scream to ourselves, “I do everything around here. As far as I’m concerned it’s me 10 you 5, so you do it.”
We become so obsessed with what we think we deserve or our expectations for the way we thought things would be or the way we think they should be that we get entrenched. Before too long we refuse to do anything in the relationship until the score is evened. And you can probably figure out what comes next.
When we consider the grace God gives us and share unmerited favor with others, even in the smallest of things, we are dying to self. We may hate it every step of the way to the dumpster thinking that we shouldn’t be doing it. It may even cause some pain, but we are doing something important. We are breaking the habit of expectation and demand. It changes our lives, our way and how we see the other person. It changes them too. When someone experiences true grace, they can’t help it.
Come to think of it, this love not only changes lives, it saves them.