It seems a lot of people have a story of the time playing a board game got out of hand. Often this involves a string of bad luck, the wrong triggering words, and ends with a board flipped. Because they are the most common games in most households Monopoly or Risk are often the causes of these rifts. The well known roll-and-move game Sorry! Also has a reputation for being a bit of a friendship ruiner. It seems some games get people a little more aggravated than others. When it comes to causing arguments and bad blood the well known mass market games, pale in comparison to a game that is infamous for this quality in hobby board gaming circles. This is this game Diplomacy.
Diplomacy has been ruining friendships since 1959. Diplomacy is a world domination game, think similar to Risk if you are more familiar with that. Ideally the game is played with a full complement of seven players. Where Diplomacy is different from a game like Risk is that there are not any dice. Any fighting is deterministic with the most pieces winning. However, due to the way the game is balanced it almost impossible to attack another player without help. This requires players to make secret alliances, backroom deals, and provide support for one another. The final major mechanism is that turns are simultaneous. All players write down their orders and then they are revealed and enacted at the same time. This means that even though you make an alliance with someone you have no way of knowing they are going to honor what was stated until those orders are revealed. Since the goal of the game is to win, that means every alliance is temporary and eventually someone is getting stabbed in the back. Winning this game practically requires telling someone trust me, while fully knowing that they really shouldn’t trust you. It really is impossible to play this game without betraying and wronging someone else, and unless you are the winner chances are someone is going to betray and wrong you as well. I have played a lot of board games, and if I were to make a list of the top games most likely to ruin a friendship nothing would get as close to Diplomacy. Despite this, the game has appeal because it has been in print and popular now for over fifty years.
Playing Diplomacy is a real test of character. The nature of the game forces the players to deal with being betrayed, back-stabbed, and having trust broken. The game forces the players to confront how they deal with those realities. Can they say it is just a game, and live in harmony with another? Can they resist the temptation to repay evil with evil, seek revenge, or hold a grudge? Perhaps being able to explore these deep interpersonal questions in the safety of a game space is one of the reasons why Diplomacy has endured in popularity.
When someone betrays you or essentially lies to your face in a game it is a little bit easier to shrug that off, but it is far different when it happens in life. When people who we thought we could trust prove they cannot be trusted it hurts. When someone acts in a way that is petty and hurtful it leaves emotional scars. When some belittles, tears, down or uses hurtful words it can harm a relationship. We know this. Sadly too many people have far too much life experience with this. Paul knew this as well, and he wrote about it in the book of Romans.
In Romans 12:17-18, 21 Paul wrote: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
This scripture is messy advice for when life gets messy. Life will get dirty, mud will get thrown and people will try to drag us down. The conventional wisdom of the world is when this happens is when someone hits you, you hit them back harder. If someone criticizes then you be a fighter and tell them how sad they are. The conventional wisdom is that we fight fire with fire. That is exactly the opposite of what the Bible puts forth. If Someone seems to have it out for you, then Jesus said “bless those who persecute you.” If Someone does you wrong, then Paul wrote “do not repay evil for evil.” If Someone betrays or takes advantage of you, then the scripture says “do not take revenge.”
A common first reaction might be one to scoff at this. Because it sounds like the Bible is insisting that we be a doormat and let people walk all over us. But that is not what we find in the scriptures. The way of the world is to get even, get revenge, and to curse those who wrong us. We find in Romans 12:21, “do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We all know the old saying, “two wrongs do not make a right.” When someone does wrong, we do right. They took the low road, so we show that grace comes from taking the high road. This does not mean people walk over us, we are still taking action. It is just our action is one based in love and mercy. We embody the love, forgiveness, and grace of Christ. When we do this, we do not get revenge but instead we overcome their wrong with good. We do not repay in kind and instead we repay in kindness. We take actual tangible actions to show love and forgiveness to those who have said unkind words or wronged us in some way.
This does not erase the wrong that was done to us, but evil was overcome by good. The evil that we overcome is in our own heart. We can not give into the instinct to get revenge and hate if we are busy responding in love and putting love into action.
Romans 12:18 again states: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Adopting this philosophy will probably not work very well in a game of Diplomacy. In fact it will probably mean a quick exit from the game. However, when the game is over and the board is flipped living in this way will mean that we are the agents of peace and reconciliation in the room. It will mean that we are the ones who stand as light in the darkness, and a disciple of Christ capable of overcoming evil with good. It requires playing a long game, but doing that is a winning strategy. It is a winning strategy that changes lives and transforms the world.