“We primarily exist for the sake of those who are not yet part of the Body of Christ…” – Core Value at Central (People)
Having three boys playing on three baseball teams at this time of year, you can imagine that I see a lot of baseball fields. It is one of the reasons I love Spring. Like Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams, I imagine there must be baseball in heaven.
Over Spring Break, my seventeen year old played a tournament game at a local Christian school. I had never been on their campus before and pulling into the parking lot, the building was impressive. As we made our way to the baseball field, I could tell that they had put some serious money into making their field top notch. From the fences to the scoreboard to the artificial turf that surrounded the infield, it was one of the nicer fields I’ve seen at a high school. Approaching home plate, we saw that on their side of the field, they had cemented a sort of balcony space for lawn chairs down the left field line and between home plate and third base, they had authentic, individual stadium seats, with a shade overhead. Now, I’ve been to a lot of high school baseball games over the years and that is only the second time I’ve ever seen stadium seats.
I’ve always heard the term, “lived on the other side of the tracks” as dividing a city’s socioeconomic status. In this case, the visitors got to sit on the other side of the snack bar, which sat directly behind home plate. On the “other side” were two sets of decrepit bleachers sitting in the beating rays of the sun amongst dirt and weeds (you know the kind with stickers that look like the devil). It had peeling paint and splinters simply waiting for an excuse to use your derriere as their exit strategy out of this bad neighborhood.
As other parents from our team showed up, the conversation was immediately about the striking contrast of “their side” of the field and “our side”. Being that we were at a Christian school, I was sensitive to what our parents were saying and cringed when one said, “I guess we know what those Christians think of us…”
I’m thankful that is not the heart of God. He gives the best to those who others might think deserve it the least. In Luke 15 a story Jesus tells is recorded about a son who has shamed his father, taken his inheritance and abandoned the family business. When the son’s life of wild living falls apart and hits rock bottom, he decides to humble himself and return to his father’s house.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:20-24
The Father gave the BEST of what he had to the one who, in everyone else’s eyes, deserved it the least. In another story, Jesus tells of a wedding feast in which he invites those who are on the highways and bi-ways to enjoy the richness of the celebration. Jesus always included the outsider with the full privileges of the insider.
Each of us are surrounded daily by people with different belief systems, different cultural identities than ours, and different economic situations. What if we, in the name of Jesus, offered them our best instead of our leftovers? This is more than an illustration about baseball bleachers, prodigal sons or wedding feasts. This is about how we view and treat those who hold different beliefs and values than ourselves. Are we offering our best or are we keeping that for ourselves?
Jesus lived and died for those who were not yet a part of his team. In life and death, He offers us the very best that He has. Shouldn’t His followers be known for doing the same?