Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Opening Day

For most Major League Baseball teams, yesterday was opening day.

In my mind, Opening Day of the baseball season is surpassed only by New Year's Day (with its resolutions) as the epitome of hopeful new beginnings. For those teams whose dreams of a successful season had crumbled by mid-season in last year's campaign, the start of an entirely new season brings hope, excitement, anticipation. Some of that hope is unjustified, of course (for evidence of this, compare the preseason and postseason sports articles covering the Chicago Cubs from any season in the last six or seven decades). Nonetheless, there is something about a clean slate, a 0-0 win-loss record, that enables baseball fans to indulge themselves in ecstatic flights of fancy. What's more, occassionally one's team does justify that hope. They "click," put all the pieces together, find the magical formula, achieve the team chemistry, and have enough individuals experiencing better-than-average years to win the division, the pennant, or even the World Series.

Opening Day of the baseball season provides an analogy for the Christian life. Redemption--the life change accomplished on our behalf by Jesus' death on the cross--is (in part) an erasing of last season's errors and strikeouts. As the Apostle Paul has it (in II Cor. 5:17), "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

The analogy breaks down, of course. Only one baseball team will achieve ultimate success, whereas every Christian ought to achieve the promised transformation. This does not always occur, obviously, and many could see their Christian experience as similar to that of Cub's fans'--unjustified expectation. The reasons that not all Christians experience true success (spiritual transformation to Christ-likeness) are many and varied, and I can't go into them here. Let me just point out that the answer is not to fire the manager--the problems are with us and not with the Holy Spirit, the best coach in the business.

Yesterday, by the way, the two teams I cheer--the Cincinnati Reds (I grew up in Cincinnati during the days of "The Big Red Machine") and the Seattle Mariners (the "local" team here in the Northwest)--each won handily. (Thanks for wondering.)

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