Today I hope you’ll allow me to be a little bit nerdy. One of my favorite hobbies is the game of chess. I don’t write about chess often (in fact, only once before, and that was three years ago). But a thought struck me today about the game that I’d like to share with you.
Chess is a strategy game between two players who alternate turns moving their pieces on an 8×8 playing board. The object of the game is to force the capture of the opponent’s king. Checkmate your opponent’s king and you win.
At the beginning of the game, all the chess pieces are set up in a standard position, with each player’s pieces on that player’s side of the board. The king is located right in the middle of the board, next to his queen, behind a row of pawns.
The game’s first move sets the tone for the whole game. There are only twenty options for this very first move: any of the first player’s eight pawns can move either one or two squares forward (sixteen options), and either of the two knights can move to one of two squares (four options).
Do you know what moves are most commonly played first? I checked an online database of chess games played by grandmasters and amateurs alike, both recently and in the past. (I know, but I asked for permission be a little nerdy.) This database contains nearly 7 million chess games. Of those millions of games, the vast majority (over 83% of them) start with one of these moves:
Advance the pawn in front of the king, or the one in front of the queen, two squares.
Even if you don’t know anything else about the game of chess, think about the consequences of these two most frequently played opening moves. The object of the game is to capture the other player’s king; as a corollary, you want to protect your king at all costs. And yet the most common opening moves of the game push one of the king’s closest defenders away from him, exposing him to potential attack.
It is a risky first move.
So it is to be in the game of Christian life. We can play defensively, keeping all our pawns close to home. But the greatest success in following Jesus comes from taking the risks of stepping forward in faith, opening ourselves up to potential harm in relationships with others, trusting that the true Grand Master, the King of Kings, knows what he is doing with the pieces he has called to serve him.
Are you willing to push that pawn two squares forward? Are you willing to step deeper into faith with Jesus Christ? What will that require of you?