by Rev. Jordan McKenzie
Those who know me know that I am a proud sports fan. Some may even know that my favorite sport happens to be baseball (Go Reds!). In the morning I often check what happened in the games from the previous day. Last week one morning I was checking out some of the highlights from the previous day’s games when I came across the latest incident in the series between the Red Sox and Orioles. To give some context, here’s the background to the incident.
In their game last last Monday night, Orioles star third basemen Manny Machado made an aggressive slide into second base, which injured Red Sox star second baseman, Dustin Pedroia. Later in the game, in retaliation, a Red Sox relief pitcher intentionally thew at Machado when he came up to bat. In response to that, an Orioles pitcher then threw at a Red Sox player.
In the next game on Tuesday night, Machado came to bat in the first inning. What happened? You guessed it, the Red Sox pitcher threw at Machado again, nearly hitting him in the head with a 100 mph fastball.
If you’re not a baseball fan and you’re following along, here’s a summary: an Orioles star player slid hard into second base, injuring a Red Sox star player. The Red Sox responded by throwing at the Orioles player, who then responded by throwing back at a Red Sox player, who then once again responded by throwing back at an Orioles player.
Confusing? Yes. Complicated? Yes. Unheard of in baseball? Not at all.
This sort of incident is something that happens quite frequently in baseball, as there is an “unwritten rule” in baseball that if someone makes a dirty play against someone on your team, you throw at them the next time they come to bat. This is commonplace. The problem is when both teams continue hitting each other in continued retaliation. This sometimes happens when there is already a pre-existing rivalry, like in this case.
As I was thinking about this, I thought about how this little baseball incident describes our world so well. How many of the conflicts that we get in as people, whether it’s between individuals, family members, different groups, or even different countries, are ultimately unnecessary? How often is it that we get caught up into battles that in the big picture, are really silly? How many of the fights that we get in really come down not to the issue itself, but to our need to be right? Many I would say. But that is the nature of sin. It often pulls us in ways that we don’t anticipate and leads us to places we don’t expect to go. A quick moment of flirting leads to an affair, a jealous thought leads to a grudge, or a feeling of pride leads to a broken relationship.
When we face a situation when we’re upset with someone else, it’s easy to get pulled in and caught up in the passion of the moment. When we feel wronged, our natural response is to wrong someone back. In biblical terms, this is called “repaying evil with evil.” Soon this dance develops into an endless battle of hostility as both parties battle each other.
Yet, our faith teaches us to do otherwise. Jesus tells us not to hurt our enemies, but to pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Paul, echoing Jesus, tells us not to repay evil with evil, but to repay evil with good, even serving and helping them (Romans 12:17-21).
Today, I hope to remember those words. It’s hard for baseball players. But it’s even harder for us in real life.