Valentin Zywietz was born and raised in Germany, studied Theology in Bogenhofen and Andrews and is currently working as a pastoral intern in Graz, Austria.

The Game

The moment you know The Game, you have already lost it. If you don’t think you just lost, then you don’t really know The Game.

Knowledge is power; but what if that knowledge invariably leads to defeat?

The Game has only three rules.

1) Everybody plays The Game. It’s a default thing. I may be making you aware of it just now, but you have been a player all along.

2) If you even think about The Game, you lose. Even without knowing the third rule.

The Game, as you have undoubtedly begun to figure out by now, is a rather frustrating affair. There is no condition for victory, and if you strain your mind trying to figure out a loophole, you have already lost again. Who would come up with something like that? Nobody knows.

The Game seems to have started in the beginning of this century, but its origins are uncertain. There does seem, however, to be a player of a version of The Game who lived much earlier. In Romans 7:7–14, Paul describes the original version of The Game, and just as its modern counterpart, it is only by knowing The Game that we begin to lose, even though everybody is involved all the time.

“Sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind.” The law, although it is holy, and the commandment, although it is holy, righteous, and good, becomes a tool in the hand of sin to make us lose The Game. “And this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me, for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.”

So, knowledge, in certain cases, is not power, but helplessness. Just as it is impossible to win The Game, it is impossible for human nature to overcome sin by a mere knowledge of, and a determination to avoid it.

Well, I should also tell you about the third rule:

3) If you lose, you must make your loss known to at least one person. Thereby you will of course cause that person to lose once more.

Played seriously and in excess, which fortunately nobody has done so far, there would be an ever-growing circle of people who, if they continued to abide by the rules, would have to spend the rest of their lives admitting “I lost The Game.” And given the nature of humanity, this would soon be an epidemic spreading to the ends of the earth. Trying to devise a defense or attempting to go into isolation in order to avoid being told of The Game is impossible, because if you do so, you are already on some level aware of it and have thereby lost it.

Whether the inventor of The Game was conscious of it or not, he created a nearly perfect analogy of sin, for it too spreads from one human being to the next. The only difference is—the modern-day version of The Game is all fun. But we don’t have to abide by the rules, and I have, many times, broken the third rule.

However, with sin and the law, the Apostle is letting us know, we can’t just ignore the rules when we are in the mood. Sin is a slave master, we are its captives, and it leads to certain death. Is there no way out? Romans 7:24-25a: “Wretched man that I am! who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

There is a way out! But it can’t be one of our own devising. Freedom from sin and its consequences can only be achieved for us, not by us, and it took the sacrifice of Christ, who suffered the consequences of our sin, to gain it.

But how does this change the rules? Don’t we still have the law and the carnal nature that tries to use it in order to make us lose again? Paul recognized that much: “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:22–23). Paul does not say that we have to lose, just that the rules still apply, and that there is still a fight to fight.

The fight is not about concentrating on the rules, Hebrews 12:1, 2, tells us. The rules do still determine losses, but we are to focus on the one who has won The Game of Sin for us, Jesus Christ. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus” is the way to fight this fight. Think about it: To think about a something is much easier than to not think about a thing. It’s the proverbial pink elephant: Telling you not to think about a pink elephant will make you picture a pink elephant, and you lose. But telling you to think about a pink elephant is an easy feat to accomplish.

Just like that, God is not asking you to not think about sin and the law, but to think about His Son.