Victory in Jesus
We are the Champions! The self-exultant exclamation is the title of an operatic power ballad by a British band in the 1970’s. Inspired by raucous soccer fans, the writer gave voice to the victors in full-throat revelry. Acclaimed as the catchiest song in the history of popular music, the international anthem is ubiquitous at sporting events, a secular “amen” to toast the winners.
The cacophony of minor jazz chords, discordant chorus, strident falsetto, and grandiose lyrics echo those playground taunts of youth: Ha ha, you lose, we win! The prideful refrain paraphrases the Sinatra mantra, I did it my way, itself an update of the nursery rhyme about little Jack Horner—what a good boy am I!
The Greeks commemorated victory with a silent trophy. The word, τροφη, meant a token taken from a rout. In the aftermath of battle, soldiers and sailors constructed their mementos for display on the field of battle or the nearest beach. These trophies were a composition of debris left to fade in the elements, yet accompanied by a plaque to credit the deities and recall the dead.
Romans modified the Greek tradition with more durable tokens of conquest, like columns and monuments in major municipalities. They wanted constant reminders of the victories that defined the emperor and the empire.
For most today, trophies are sentimental souvenirs collecting dust as decorations on inaccessible shelves. The awards and ribbons are noted by descendants with vague detachment. Victory songs ring hollow, ditties that parody past pride.
Paul writes, thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 15:57). Believers know that the ultimate and everlasting victory is granted by grace. So, no one can build a shrine to achievement; no one can chant self-congratulations; no one can point to an earthly prize; no one can boast of worthy works (Ephesians 2:9). Believers well know that everyone is a loser because of sin, helpless and hopeless apart from that singular victory won by Jesus alone.
John portrays the winning prize as a crown of life (Revelation 2:10). Often overlooked about this metaphor was the first-century practice of bequeathing the coronal wreath as a posthumous prize. The crown of life is granted to mortals who succumb to apparent defeat. Having been faithful unto death, followers walk with the Lord forever.
Fallen humanity craves the conquest of victory, the trophy of recognition, the melody of adulation, the escape from loss. In the unmerited mercy of Christ this void is transformed, now and forever. Victory in Jesus is victory indeed.