Baseball and the Gospel

By Tim Shaw

We are not a huge sports family, partly because we don’t have the right TV and requisite cable subscription, but every spring we become a baseball family. Our older son started playing ten years ago—I can hardly believe how quickly time flies!—and now he plays at school and on our town’s American Junior Legion team. Our younger son plays, too, in a travel league. Spending time at practices, enjoying the slow pace of the games, hanging out with friends we’ve made over the years, and eating plenty of snack-shack hot dogs are all good things.

Anyone familiar with the sport knows there’s a parallel between what can happen in a baseball game and what can happen in real life. Do a Google search for “life lessons from baseball,” and you’ll find plenty of lists full of great advice: “never give up,” “work as a team,” “keep your eye on the ball,” “be flexible,” “there’s no crying in baseball!” Even fans of the game are not immune from these life lessons; anyone who’s a fan of the Red Sox (my wife), the Cubs (my step-father), or even the Phillies has learned and been forced to practice the virtue of patience—“there’s always next season.”

As manager for my younger son’s team, I keep the book during games and maintain a spreadsheet of players’ statistics following each game. And that’s where, I think, baseball teaches the most important life lesson: nobody’s perfect. No baseball player, not even the great David Ortiz, can maintain a perfect batting record. Kids want to get a hit every at bat, of course. But we parents and coaches are there to encourage them when they strike out yet again: “you’ll get ’em next time,” “I love you anyway,” “it’s only a game.”

Nobody’s perfect. Paul writes about this in Romans 3:10: “None is righteous, no, not one.” That’s bad news, because life isn’t “only a game.” The good news of the Gospel, though, reminds me that even though I don’t have a perfect record, Jesus does. When God looks at me, he doesn’t see my failures; God sees Jesus’ perfect record, which is mine by grace. There’s an old hymn we sing occasionally at New Life that describes this beautifully: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found; dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”