Back in May, Traci and I had the chance to visit with two of our Overboard Ministries supporters in Maryland, and take in a few baseball games with the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles. We had a great time sharing about Overboard Ministries, watching baseball and enjoying a few days away together. During one game, we were sitting in left field while our beloved Mariners were losing. One Baltimore fan was particularly vocal and from the 4th inning on, I started paying extra attention to what he was doing.
He spent the entire bottom of the 4th inning harassing the Mariner’s left fielder. At first it was actually kind of funny, but as the inning and the game wore on, his harassing went from innocent fun to vulgar, crass and occasionally racist outbursts. Even some of his fellow Oriole fans began to ask him to cool it.
After one three-inning stretch I told Traci, “That guy won’t shut up when our guy is in the field, but he doesn’t say much when his team is up to bat.” We knew what (or who, in this case) this man was against, but if you were just casually watching his behavior, you really wouldn’t know what he was for.
I hope my life is marked more by what I’m chasing, than by what I’m running from; known more by what I’m for than what I’m against.
That’s not some cheesy cliché that removes boundaries and rules from our lives, because you cannot read the Scriptures with any consistency and neglect the “thou shalt not” instructions. Instead, I think it’s a statement that reflects the intentions of God and the way He wants His children to live. Think about these three powerful “for” biblical statements about God’s relationship to us:
“...I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
“What then shall we see in response to this? If God is for us, than who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Yes, the Bible has clear commands about actions, behaviors and thoughts we are to avoid, but that doesn’t mean our life focus should be primarily on those issues. I’m not going to avoid those topics in my teaching and counseling, but I hope my life is marked more by what I’m living for, and not what I’m living against.
I regularly pray that people will see and hear the story of God’s love and mercy from my life and lips, that they will hear about the hope that comes from knowing Him, and that the best life any of us could have, is the one that’s lived in closeness to God. Yes, I will preach against sin, but always in the context of the grace that is offered from our loving Father.
As the Baltimore game came to an end, the loud fan had fired off his last few insults and headed out. I noticed an interesting contrast between him and most of the other fans leaving his section: he wasn’t all that happy even though his team had just won. His face didn’t reflect a smile or joy, instead his eyebrows were still furrowed and he wasn’t talking to anyone on his way out.
I’m confident that man’s actions and words didn’t inspire anything in the baseball fans around him, and I feel fairly certain he didn’t go home feeling very good himself. That’s because it’s hard to lift others up, to stir people to action, by focusing your life on what you’re against.
Let’s take inventory of our lives, and make sure we’re broadcasting message(s) that are worth promoting; messages that encourage others to pursue life with God!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!