Categories
Baltimore Orioles baseball Christianity encouragement support

No Fans?

Neal Pollard

Baltimore was the host of history yesterday.  Never, in nearly 150 years of professional baseball in America, has a regular season baseball game between two Major League teams been closed to the public.  I estimated the crowd inside Camden Yard to have been exactly zero fans in the stands, breaking Baltimore’s old record-low attendance of 655 on August 17, 1972, also against the White Sox.  There were fans behind the stadium gates in left-field and a small group gathered on the balcony of the Baltimore Hilton yesterday who could somewhat see the action, but their reaction as the home team won was muffled and faint as far as the players were concerned. The game was played this way because of the ongoing Baltimore riots, for the safety of fans and players.  The latter, when interviewed, talked about how eery and bizarre it was to play a game in front of no fans.

While we could chase the political and cultural rabbits stirred by the fact of those teams playing that game yesterday, let’s think about the players.  How hard is it to concentrate when you are on the field and can hear the sportswriters typing or the two scouts in the stands talking?  What’s it like to have success at the plate or on the mound and the appreciation be the deafening silence of the empty seats?  These guys make a whole lot of money, but, as Chris Davis said after the game, “When you’re rounding the bases, and the only cheers you hear were from outside the stadium, it’s a weird feeling. I’ll take any home run I can get at any time I can get it, but it’s definitely more fun when there are fans in the stands” (info via Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun online, 4/30/15, and baseball-almanac.com).  I think any of us could imagine how surreal and distracting that would be.

We are not running the Christian race to glorify self, for earthly accolades and recognition.  In fact, Jesus condemns such an approach to religion in Matthew six.  Yet, God knows how we are made, that we thrive on encouragement.  He tells wavering saints in Hebrews about the “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (12:1).  He mentions the crowd in the midst of the metaphor of running the race. While we cannot hear or see those referenced there, we can be audible and visible support for each other—strengthening weak hands, feeble knees, and heal others (12:12-13).  We must cheer each other on and “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thess. 5:11).  The world will not applaud us for standing up for what’s right and living the way God instructs. But, we have each other.  It’s not the size of the crowd, but the vociferousness of the cheering, that will make the difference.  Let’s be fans of one another, today and every day.

Categories
endurance faithfulness

SHE CARRIED HER SISTER TO THE FINISH LINE

 

Neal Pollard

At the southern Illinois state track meet, Claire and Chloe Gruenke, twin sisters, were signed up for several races.  Chloe would even win the one mile race in 5:23 that day.  But in the 800 meter race, Chloe heard a pop in her knee and absolutely could not run another step.  Claire saw it happen and made an incredibly sacrificial gesture.  She put her sister on her back and carried her piggyback the final 370 meters of that race.  The crowd wildly cheered her on and gave her the encouragement she needed to do the difficult and finish the race with her sister in tow (via Fox4kc.com). It was a beautiful story!

The writer of Hebrews tells us we are running a race, surrounded by many witnesses (12:1).  It is easy to grow weary and lose heart (3).  God has given us Christ as a focal point (2). However, the Bible gives us the charge to help each other, too (Gal. 6:1; Heb. 12:13).  While no one can run the Christian race for someone else or make another person do what they need to do to be saved, we are encouraged to help each other run that race.  Paul talks of helping other “runners” and watching himself in the process (1 Cor. 9:27). He urges the Romans, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-2).

There are times when we feel strong and can make progress without the assistance of others on this earth, but at other times we will struggle.  How terrible if we do not have someone to help us make it through the struggling times.  Of course, we also have to think of ourselves as ones willing to aid the brother or sister who needs a spiritual lift—the carrier and not just the carried.  God has made the church as a unified body, each member helping the other when the need arises.  Many will not finish the race.  May we make sure that we do what we can to prevent our spiritual family from failing to successfully cross the finish line.