Content from Grace Centered Magazine
Okay. We’re at the halfway point of the baseball season. And the Yankees are playing more respectably. So maybe that’s why it occurred to me that a lot of our experience of religion is like baseball.
In baseball, fans and fanatics have a lot in common. A real baseball fan is someone who really knows the game, and most have favorite teams. They wear logo hats and jerseys. They spend good money on tickets, make friends who sit in the same part of the park, and yell loud enough to shatter your eardrums.
But there are lots of baseball fanatics who don’t know the game well at all. They shout, “We’re Number One!” But they have no idea what a squeeze play is. They think the umpire is blind who calls a third strike on their favorite player. And they can’t understand why the fan wearing their team’s logo cheers when “the enemy team” makes a really good defensive play.
Fanatic devotees of a given team jump up, whistle, and high-five everybody in their section of the stadium when “our guy” hits one out of the park. They boo when “the enemy” legs out a triple or makes a diving play to catch a sinking line drive in deep leftcenter.
You occasionally even see a partisan fanatic – but never a baseball fan – throw beer or soda on the other team’s players.
All the big-league teams have both. There are authentic baseball fans who follow the Cubs or Cardinals, Red Sox or Yankees. While they know their team best and can give you batting averages and E.R.A.s for their favorite players, they also enjoy seeing other teams and players do well. It’s part of the game. Then there is the guy who considers himself “Super Fan” who has never kept a scorecard – and wouldn’t know how, if his life depended on it.
Similarly, there are Christians and sectarians. They have things in common – such as church membership and loyal involvement with their local church or denomination.
But they are very different too.
Christians are people whose faith in and love for Jesus Christ defines their lives. The Word of God is precious to them, and they obey it to the best of their understanding and ability. They are members of this denomination or that congregation. But they aren’t such religious partisans that they think God loves only those who think and act as they do.
Sectarians believe “Nobody’s right but us!” and see other churches and their members as hopelessly flawed. Those people are, in fact, “the enemy.” Maybe you think it is impossible that anybody could ever think his or her group is all there is to the Body of Christ or “Everybody but us is going to hell,” but I’ve met them.
Rabid zealots for this or that team who don’t have a clue about the game their team plays are frighteningly like their counterparts in religion. They are fanatically loyal but hardly have a clue about what is going on around them.
-Dr. Rubel Shelly
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