By Hank Lamb
Sports fans know that perfection is rarely if ever achieved. Virtually every sport has a system designed to manage imperfection. With the Texas Rangers making the World Series for a second time, I’ve been thinking about the way the game of baseball is played and called, and the way we live.[/dropcap]
Consider this: Baseball records errors on the scoreboard for everyone to see. When a player comes up to bat, they put his picture on the big screen with his stats, including a batting average that is seldom above .300 (3 out of 10 times at bat they get a hit). How’s that for measuring job performance? As long as he’s batting 30 percent, he’s considered one of the better hitters.
And think about how many swings can be taken in one at-bat. As long as the batter keeps hitting foul balls, he gets to keep swinging even though he’s yet to put the ball in play.
The game is just as tough on the pitchers. With every pitch you get an immediate call of strike or ball, perfect or imperfect. Their faces are also put on the big screen along with their stats. The ERA–Earned Run Average–is displayed for all to see as well as the number of strikes and balls thrown, hits, walks and more.
My point is that the game of baseball is played and measured in real time, moment by moment, pitch by pitch, swing by swing. And although the umpires are fallible, they possess infallibility during the game. How they see it is how they call it, and right or wrong, their decision is final. Even with instant replay, which has been utilized more this year in baseball, the umps have the last word on everything.
Could you imagine a Sunday morning experience at church being conducted like the game of baseball? As each person comes into the sanctuary, their face is put on the big screen along with their relevant stats. Your hits and misses are stacked up against your moments of obedience and disobedience. Your strikes and balls highlight those moments when you spoke up and those moments when you didn’t but should have. Everyone can see the tally of bases stolen–the times you got away with a sin.
Could you imagine having the equivalent of umpires at church? I immediately think of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who put themselves on a higher spiritual plane than their brothers and used it to fingerpoint their flaws. Who can deny their continual presence at church in our time?
My point is that Christians should strive to live holy lives, playing the game to the best of our ability. We are attempting to be perfect. We should be seeking to throw more strikes, get more base hits and make the right calls. Our goal should be to “become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29, NASB).
Dallas Willard made a poignant remark about grace. He said, “Grace is opposed to earning, however, it is not opposed to effort.” This aligns with the words of Paul, who wrote, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV).
Can we play “the perfect game”? According to the apostle Paul, we can. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NASB).
You’re up next. What are you going to do?
Hank Lamb is senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Richardson.