Skin

Skin in the game refers to owners, executives, or principals having a significant stake in the shares of the company they manage. Skin in the game is important to investors because it shows executives share a stake in the company’s success.

Have you ever noticed how simple life can be in theory? When you read the news or hear of some incident and blurt out, “Why don’t they just…..? They should be locked up. How stupid.” And many other retorts, no doubt. We’re smarter, wiser, clear and dogmatic – when we have no skin in the game. When we’re distant, not impacted, and when no-one we know is involved. Think of airplane disasters, fires, floods, shootings, wars and earthquakes. There are reports almost every day on the news. We sort of pay attention; perhaps respond with a degree of detached sadness or concern before, “What’s for dinner?”

Our attitude changes in a flash if a family member is on that plane, a son or daughter is in a flooded area, or when we ourselves experience the earthquake beneath the dining room table. Skin in the game changes everything – quickly, deeply, and forever.

When we have skin in the game we become more concerned, more interested, more active, more compassionate, less judgmental, kinder, more generous. We look for mercy and understanding, we see a bigger picture, we pray for another chance, we entertain grace and forgiveness. The world is an entirely different place when whatever is happening involves us, or those whom we love.

I have counselled and walked alongside a wide variety of people (apart from myself) for many years. They have been involved in murder, theft, prostitution, drug dealing, betrayal, deception, fights, cheating, lying, and addiction. Those experiencing job loss, divorce, loneliness, depression, gender confusion, shame, and….. There are those who more respectably have been guilty of envy, indifference, hypocrisy, lust, selfish ambition, religiosity, intellectual pride, and love of money. The list of our troubles and vices is long and ugly.

Here’s the thing. No matter what the ‘ugly sin or secret’ when we sit down with any person, listen, and engage, invariably the ‘sin’ becomes more understandable in the presence of a person with a face and a name. Understanding context and opportunity (or lack thereof) never condones bad actions, but it makes forgiveness and the possibility of change more possible to consider. Hope flames in the darkness. Knowing someone makes all the difference in the world – when we have skin in the game. If every politician and priest had to be first in line to receive their policies, directives, judgements, or to fight wars – imagine!

Having skin in the game transforms our thinking, our attitude, our responses, our rhetoric, and our passion to find solutions. It brings justice and mercy front and center, whatever the situation. It touches us deeply because (whether we like it or not) we carry within us the DNA of God.

Skin in the game captures the heart of God when it comes to his creation and how he relates to the world – in all it’s muddled, tragic, and glorious living. From the very beginning he’s always had skin in the game – with every human who has ever breathed. As Easter approaches we are reminded again of this remarkable declaration and historic revelation: that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son – Jesus. That’s the ultimate act of having ‘skin in the game’. Like placing your son or daughter on the crashing plane, in the flood, in the fire, in the earthquake, in the frontline of war, in the very worst of places.

There was absolutely nothing in ‘becoming human’ that benefitted Jesus, God the Father, or the Holy Spirit. In fact it was because they already had skin in the game of life (people like you and me) that they offered up their own skin to rescue us. “I don’t need rescuing,” is the common response. It’s the alcoholic declaring he can stop whenever, the victim blaming another for their predicament, the deaf and blind professing innocence with ‘What have I done?”

I have witnessed many family members and friends being angry or disappointed by the actions of a friend or relative. But I’ve never witnessed them not caring or being indifferent. Blood does indeed flow thick, loyal, and strong. Sometimes (unhelpfully) even turning a blind eye when it’s inappropriate – under the guise of love. The point is that when we have skin in the game we’re almost certainly going to be fighting for the redemption, healing, freedom, and restoration of the one we care about.

“It’s who you know that makes all the difference.”

We wish this was not so true because it seems unfair. Those with the right connections get access, opportunity, service, free passes, and sometimes even no consequences when others would be punished. When it comes to God we learn that he has no favorites. Every one of us is known by him, seen and heard, loved and cared for – by him. We are his skin in the game and the reason why his Son placed his skin in the game, on the line, and ultimately bleeding and mangled on the Cross.

Easter is the greatest moment in human history reminding us of the meaning of life at every level. It focusses on the depravity of humanity gone astray, clawing for power, independence, and degenerate corruption. And it also highlights the love of God who never turns a blind eye, is far from indifferent to suffering, and who has always been deeply, intimately, and personally involved in human life on earth.

The one thing God never muscles in on is our freedom to choose.

Anyone who has ever walked alongside someone struggling in addiction, or with anything that is destructive, can testify to the painful truth that no change is ever possible until the individual confesses their need and powerlessness, and asks for help. It’s no secret that the one who is often most helpful to another is the person who can say, “I used to be an addict, I know how it feels to be betrayed, I was liar and a fraud, I killed a man……” When someone who has saved their own skin in the game shares their story with another, hope arises. “Maybe that can be me as well!”

Easter is not about a religious historical experience lost in the ages on a distant shore. It’s about a highly relational God who is invested in skin, people, sons and daughters. I believe that our greatest challenge is to find our way back into meaningful, sacrificial, empathic, and gracious relationships. Where people experience God in all his grace and mercy by encountering others with skin in their game – who can light their path to a better more humane way of living. It’s not the doctrine, the values, the dogma, or the rhetoric – it’s the friendship, the listening, the sharing stories, the generosity of spirit, the small acts of kindness, and the humility manifest through skin that makes the spirit come alive.

That’s what Easter is all about. Skin. God become flesh, a baby in Bethlehem. A boy at the temple, a teacher in the synagogue, a man with his friend on the road. It’s about a man who healed, who touched other skin – the leper who was made well, the blind eyes seeing, the deaf hearing, the child raised from death. It’s about skin flogged and bleeding for the sake of another. Skin pierced with nails, a crown of thorns, and a spear.

Skin left to decay in a grave wrapped in cloth and spices. Skin that broke the rules, defied the odds, overcame the rot and stench of death, and walked victorious in the garden on the third day. Skin seen by over 500 witnesses when it should have been dead. Skin manifesting fulness of life when filled with a Spirit that will never die.

As long as there is skin on earth God will be reaching out. He loves the skin but hates the skinner. And because he declares that we are all his creation, by default related, we all have skin in the game… wherever we are. Let’s be the difference and never give up on anyone.

Here’s a song of thanks by Joshua Aaron, a Messianic Jew (Christian) live from Jerusalem. And below is a link to a new book my brother has just released from New Zealand on the encouraging friendship of Barnabas.

John Cox

Christian Author and Counsellor

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