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If there ever was a sport …
that has become overly-immersed in comparison and statistics, it would be professional baseball. You have likely heard of a player’s batting average, but did you know offensive stats include “plate appearances per strikeout”, “gross production average” or “walk to strikeout ratio”? You have likely heard of earned run average, but did you know defensive stats include “double plays induced”, “power-finesse ratio” and “range factor”?
Essentially, baseball is all about the numbers and therefore constantly mired in the world of comparison. On a player by player level, one can hardly help but look to the left or the right and assess where “they stand” in the game. Such a process can only produce one of two standard and not-so-desirable outcomes: a sense of envy or an invasion of pride . . and all of this in a “team sport” that requires 9 starters and a total roster of 25.
Yet, tradition would have it that in addition to the team name on the front of every game jersey, you will also, regardless of team, find each player’s individual name and number on their back.
Then suddenly …
in a sport that measures the speed that the baseball travels from the pitcher to the catcher and the speed at which a home run leaves the park, not to mention the angle and total distance . . a rising young star tragically died in a Saturday night boating accident. That star went by the name of Jose Fernandez and was wearing the number 16 in his 4th year with the Florida Marlins.
His talent was only exceeded by his charm and unrestrained child-like love for the game. His impact and legacy have no better measuring stick than a moment when the team surrounded the pitcher’s mound following a game where every man on the roster for the first time ever wore the exact same jersey . . the #16 jersey of one dearly missed Jose Fernandez.
It took a tragedy and a death to, at least for the moment, erase the lines of comparison and distinction and make the Marlins one in spirit and purpose like never before.
Is it not the same with Christ?
In a world that is so often overcome with the ravages of pride and jealousy, shouldn’t it be the local church that stands out as the one place where people can go and discover that the comparison game has been dropped for good? Shouldn’t it be the church where divisions and selfish ambitions around personality, ethnic origins, spiritual gifting, leadership roles, popularity and organizational significance drift to the category of “not important here”? Shouldn’t it be the church where one and only one uniform is worn . . the uniform of the One who gave His life so we might have life, a future free of pain and a present where we come together in spirit and purpose like never before?
After all, Galatians 3 tells us, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
God’s word tells us that our position in Christ should radically alter our practice in life . . His death should serve as the gateway for ours . . the individual names and numbers should drop off the back of our uniforms – for now and forever, the team on the front is all that matters. Yet, Paul’s opening and very unapologetic rebuke to these same Galatian churches was “you so quickly deserted the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ”. In effect, Galatian believers had raised up religious, pride-inflaming standards, protocols and benchmarks to make a few “feel superior” while making many feel inferior, incomplete and inept. Division ruled the day and the good news was no longer the good news.
How about in your church? Whose jersey is being touted and worn? Are there insiders and outsiders . . approved and disapproved?
If so, then look no further than yourself and make it your purpose today as never before to . .
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
– Philippians 2:3 –
Because . .
I have been crucified with Christ
and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
– Galatians 2:20 –
The sting surrounding the loss …
of Jose Fernandez is tied to “what could have been”, for his life was cut short at only the age of 24 . . a life that was well on it’s way to becoming much like that of another legend who just left us – that would be one Arnold Palmer. Arnold too played a game that easily gets mired in metrics and statistics . . a game where few ever rise to touring pro status and even then the majority fail to “make the cut” on a weekly basis.
While some have recited the remarkable “stats” of Palmer’s playing career in the wake of his death, the primary conversation in and well beyond the world of sports is revolving around how Palmer transcended the game through his love and respect for people. Arnold Palmer simply had a way of making time stand still and making you feel as though you were the only person in the room, or in the gallery, or the airport, or wherever . . he simply made you feel better about you being you because he never became full of himself.
This is our calling in Christ, this is our legacy assignment, the days are short – and perhaps the deaths of Jose Fernandez and Arnold Palmer can serve as reminder that life, especially life in Christ, is not about us nor our achievements. Not one soul in God’s family is lacking in resources or skill or a rich future – Christ in us today is wanting to lock eyes with even just one life who has yet to discover that . . they matter most.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know Him better.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you,
the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints,
and His incomparably great power for us who believe…
– Ephesians 1:17-19 –
1992 – 2016
1929 – 2016
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