As I was putting away one of Alyssa’s Thanksgiving creations, I stumbled upon some old papers, including writing I had done as a youth. At that time, professional baseball was what I lived and breathed in the summer months. A die-hard Braves fan during their glory, my whole life revolved around the televised games. But in 1994 the Major League baseball players went on strike, dealing a big blow for my 14-year-old life. Before the days of the Internet and blogs, I typed the following opinion on the baseball strike, seen only by my parents up until now.
The True Test
by Jill Gray, 1995
The strike. It puts a different feeling in everyone’s head. Many people see it as an act showing the greediness of the professional baseball players. Others see it as the players simply taking a stand on what they believe. Everyone will look at it in different ways.
Not many think about the strike anymore. After all, it has been a year and a half since it began. However, the scars still remain. Many people have given up baseball completely. “I’m just not interested in baseball anymore. It’s not the same as it used to be,” they say. True. It is not the same as it used to be. Times have changed. When professional baseball first began, the players were paid very little. They played because they loved the sport. It seems as though now, it is not an issue of the love of the sport. It is an issue of money. The baseball players will beg to differ. They say it is the principle. They say that they were protecting what has been a long-standing legacy.
The reasons will still be argued for generations to come. However, I believe the deepest consequence has not yet been pointed out. Many people will argue with my opinion, but I believe the strike has shown who is really a true baseball fan, and who is not. True baseball fans will not let the strike influence their opinion of baseball. True baseball fans know that there is a “spirit” of baseball, that only true baseball fans can know. And when that “spirit” returned, true baseball fans were ready to follow their favorite team, and in my case, to the World Series Championship.
We can’t change what has already happened. But we can change whether we will hold a grudge for yesterday. True baseball fans have to let go of the past. True baseball fans know that the show will go on.
Eighteen years later, trying to gain my footing in the writing world, I found my opinion piece as a youth quite fascinating. But I also found it incredibly insightful in a way that went beyond baseball. You see, I think the same way that baseball fans made an exodus from the sport in 1994, many professing Christians have made a similar exodus from the local church.
Let me explain. In 1994 the strike hurt more than the players and owners. It hurt us, the fans, who had nothing to do with the politics of the situation. Similarly, many of us have experienced church hurt. Or deep hurt at the hands of professing Christians. Or just simply being fed up with the perceived politics. Or a plethora of other things. And so, because of this hurt, many have abandoned the church. Or have relegated ourselves to spectators instead of giving our hearts.
Just like the baseball fans of the 1990s had a choice to stay true to the sport despite the disappointment and hurt, we as believers in Christ have a choice to remain faithful to Him, despite disappointment and hurt we may have experienced. But make no mistake. Serving Christ apart from His church isn’t an option for a true follower of Christ. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), so if we are believers we are part of His church already. We weren’t made to live in isolation. We were made to live in conjunction with believers and commanded to do so in Hebrews 10:25. Ultimately, despite the members of the church’s flaws, despite our sin, despite our failure to be good ambassadors of Christ all the time, despite a very real enemy raining arrows at the church day in and day out, Jesus himself said that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church (Matt. 16:18).
Giving up on the church because of the hurt we’ve experienced is like baseball fans of the 1990s giving up on baseball after the strike. Who missed out when they gave up? Not the players. Not the owners. Not the sport.
Think about it. What did some of those fans who left the sport of baseball in 1994 miss in the coming years?
- Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played in September 1995
- The epic home run battle between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, passing Roger Maris’ record
- The Boston Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918
If you’re a baseball fan, you could probably add a few more. And the truth is, going into the 2014 season, 20 years later, very few, if any, of those involved in the 1994 strike remain active Major League Baseball.
Yet Major League Baseball continues to thrive.
Just as Christ’s church will.
The question is, if we’ve been hurt, or disappointed, or struck with disillusionment, will we make the choice to stay true to Christ and continue giving ourselves to the mission of reaching the lost? Will we, 20 years later, continue to harbor bitterness or will we look at our trials as a blip on the radar of the grand scheme of accomplishing the mission?
Tomorrow is a day of new beginnings. If you haven’t plugged in to a local church – yes, a local flawed church, make the commitment to do so. Make the choice to serve Christ. Make the choice to endure the hard times – knowing that the testing of your faith will develop perseverance – and I just bet you’ll look back on some moments you’re so glad you didn’t miss.