Is our life in the church meant to be a celebration or a competition?
Well, what do the Gospels say? Fifteen times is the gathering of the Body of Christ described as a feast, banquet, or the like. Only once (Matthew 25 – “When did I see you hungry, naked, in prison…”) is a scene of judgment described. (And that one scene is important. How we treat the poor and marginalized matters.)
I think, too often though, we do not share this vision of celebration given by the Gospels. There is sense of competition, an unspoken understanding that we can win or be better than another at a life of faith. The narrative of competition can be implicit and subtle and exists in both progressive and more traditional tribes of the church. (The irony is, those who are most developed in faith know acutely that they are not better than anyone else.)
Certainly, life is not a celebration all the time, nor is it meant to feel that way. There is work, sometimes very difficult work, to be done to be ever more hospitable at the celebration.
But we do not do this work to win. We do the work because we have been loved first… and then we celebrate.