Archive for the 'abundant life' Category

The Word of the Lord–from the Sports Page!

Frank Deford may be my favorite secular “preacher”. He’s a sportswriter with a keen sense of moral and yes, even spiritual, issues in the sports world. [Please bear with me, non-sports-fans. We’ll get to those issues soon.] Deford’s latest commentary on NPR addressed the recent doping scandal in baseball and the upcoming Baseball Hall of Fame election. This is the first year that Barry Bonds and Roger Clements, the two most prominent players implicated in the scandal, are eligible for election. Some baseball writers have expressed their intent to vote for Bonds and Clements. Don’t do that, Deford warned—loudly! He insists (and I agree) that athletes using illegal drugs are cheaters plain and simple and their cheating should never be rewarded.

It’s not just that they helped themselves. The unfair advantage that Bonds, Clements, and other ballplayers gained disadvantaged other players: “…the dopers did not just pad their own statistics,” Deford wrote. “They keep score in games; by definition, sports are zero sum. By taking unfair advantage, the druggies hurt the players who played fair.” Deford recalled the doping scandal at the 1976 Olympics. He named eleven US runners and swimmers who finished just behind medal-winning East German athletes in their events. The East German athletes were later proven to have used performance-enhancing drugs. “By taking unfair advantage, the druggies hurt the players who played fair.”

The case is clear when we see US runner and silver medalist  Frank Shorter stand by as his illegally-juiced East German competitor receives the gold medal.  It’s harder to identify the victims of drug cheating in a team sport like baseball. Would a drug-free Bonds have set the record for most career home runs? Or would it still belong to Henry Aaron? Would Clements have pitched as powerfully? Would his New York Yankees have been as successful? Obviously we can’t “do-over” all the games in which Bonds, Clements, and other illegal drug users played. But we can at least refuse to reward their bad behavior and in that small way affirm the vast majority of players who play by the rules.

NOW HERE’S THE MESSAGE FOR FANS AND NON-FANS ALIKE: My actions reach far beyond myself. When I cheat my way to victory in baseball, bicycling, horse racing, or Life, I hurt everyone else involved. Those relatively few illegal drug users hurt all the other players, the fans, and the whole baseball community. Playing–or living–by a lower standard is never just about me. It lowers the bar for all involved. It’s easy to lower the bar—and much harder to raise it back to that higher level. Politicians, are you listening? Parents, are you listening? Pastors and church leaders looking for quick fixes, are you listening?

The good news is that the reverse is equally true. One person who steps up and lives at that higher level raises the bar for everyone on the team, in the business, the family, the neighborhood, the church. Abraham, Moses, Esther, and David did that.  Jesus did that supremely—and paid the supreme price. Countless followers of Jesus have dared to follow him in that high-level life the Bible calls “abundant life” (John 10:10). Most have paid a steep price for their faithfulness—Luther, Wesley, King, Mandela, Mother Teresa. Make your own list. Let’s share them through this blog. We’ll be amazed and inspired.

As the message draws to a close, I suspect that Brother Deford, like every good preacher, would call for a decision Will we settle for Lowest-Common-Denominator living on the baseball field or anywhere else in life? Or will we be that “one person” who steps up and lives at a higher level? Will we be the one who raises the bar and lifts those whose lives touch ours to higher, fuller, deeper life?

This morning we heard the news of the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. One man, James Holmes, devastated the life of dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands.  I’m waiting to hear stories of people who stepped up to help others in the aftermath of the tragedy. I’m also wondering if some of the people in Holmes’ life over the years—family, teachers, friends, etc.—are asking themselves if they missed opportunities to make a life-changing difference with him. We don’t get do-overs. We do get all the forgiveness we need and can accept. We do get new opportunities to live at the highest level we know.

Paul sometimes used sports metaphors to make his point. Once he compared following Jesus to a long-distance race(Philippians 3:12-14). A little later he described  the focus that empowers that high level abundant life: “…keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 CEV)