For the Love of the Race

Apparently, the 2020 World Series is almost over. As an avid baseball lover, i purchased a subscription for MLB.tv in February of this year. And then COVID hit. As such, i watched two spring training games in February before the season was essentially cancelled. Then, when the season resumed, i watched two more games. And now, it’s the World Series.

It being World Series season, i am reminded me of Game 1 of the 2019 World Series. I was watching it with my dad, as we’ve so often done since i was a very young child, and for some reason we got into a discussion about baseball statistics. Specifically, we were discussing on-base percentage, batting average, slugging percentage, and how they are all three different. Additionally, we were learning the multitude of situations where different statistics are nullified. The starting point for this statistical/rule nightmare can be found here.

It made me think. By the time our conversation was concluded, i had decided (at least for the day) that baseball was stupid.

And people can often come to similar conclusions about church and/or Christianity for similar reasons. The rules get overemphasized, and it takes all the joy out of life.

However, with that said, i must note that baseball would no longer exist if the rules were completely removed. Similarly, Christianity would no longer exist if the rules were removed.

It’s similar to a human body. If your skeleton were sticking out, you clearly have issues that need to get taken care of. However, if your skeleton were completely removed, you would have even worse issues.

As such, we need the rules in Christianity. But we need to emphasize things with a proper balance. I think of Galatians 5. There are two lists in this chapter. One is a positive list; one is a negative list.

Sins to avoid

the works of the flesh are obvious:

sexual immorality
moral impurity
promiscuity
idolatry
sorcery
hatreds
strife
jealousy
outbursts of anger
selfish ambitions
dissensions
factions
envy
drunkenness
carousing
and anything similar

5:19-21

Virtues to pursue

the fruit of the Spirit is

love
joy
peace
patience
kindness
goodness
faith
gentleness
self-control

5:22-23

Ask a random person on the street for a definition of a Christian, and they’ll probably describe someone who “doesn’t have fun,” or who doesn’t do the things in the “Sins to avoid” list, or who judges people who do the things in the “Sins to avoid” list.

It should not be this way!

In addition, Galatians 5:21 concludes by saying that those who do such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That includes all of the things in the list. Not merely “drunkeness” or “sexual immorality.”

Have you envied someone recently?

If so, you are just as guilty in God’s eyes–apart from the grace of Jesus Christ–as someone who is a homosexual or a murderer.

Have you been angry recently and let words slip you shouldn’t have?

If so, you are just as guilty in God’s eyes–apart from the grace of Jesus Christ–as someone who is a homosexual or a murderer.

As Christians, we need to stop picking and choosing which sins we think are serious, and pay attention to what God has to say about the things that upset Him.

But even more, as Christians, we need to not only be known for the things we are against. Christians should be known as the most joyful, loving people in the world. Jesus said as much in John 13:35.

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And He said something stunningly amazing in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7, quoting Hosea 6:6,

“Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Emphasis added.

And given the context of this statement, God prefers His people showing compassion and love to others instead of legalistically clinging to the rules.

But again, this doesn’t mean we throw out the rules in the name of “Love Wins,” but it does mean that if it comes down to a question of, “Should I show this person the love of Jesus?” or “Should I follow the law that says not to associate with non-believers?” the answer is that you should love that person enough to give them the Gospel. (In this discussion, a true, hearty, biblical definition of love is essential.)

This is how we can simultaneously be known for our love, give Christianity a good name, and prove ourselves believers. Remember, having all of your theological i’s dotted and t’s crossed properly does not guarantee that you are a Christian. The demons know more correct, biblical theology than we ever will, but they’re still eternally cursed to hell.

We must love! We can’t let knowing the ins and outs of all of the most complex theological systems become our focus. We must love! We can’t divide because someone doesn’t believe the same thing we do about some tertiary theological discussion. We must love! We can’t focus on the rules, and vilify people who don’t live up to what we consider to be the standard of good, Christian living. We must love!

Getting too bogged down in the rules of baseball destroys the enjoyment of the game. But removing the rules from the game means that we no longer have a game. Let’s play Christianity (a metaphor like “running the race”) according to the rules, but never focus so much on the rules that we lose the joy of the game!

In this with you!

Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Scriptura
Solus Christus
Sola Fide
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.

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