Lessons in Grace- Major League Baseball & The Prodigal Son

4 Jun

What better topic for an inaugural post than the topic of God’s grace? I have been challenged to think often about this subject over the past year and the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know. For the next few weeks, I will share some of the lessons I’ve been learning from Scripture, along with words from authors that I’ve come across.

Today, I happened to hear about an event that took place in Major League Baseball this past week. For those who don’t know, when a pitcher pitches a “perfect game”, he allows no hits, no walks, and no runs. 27 batters go up to bat and not one makes it to first base. Simply put, it’s a rarity for anything like this to happen. In fact, in all of MLB history, only 20 pitchers have ever pitched a perfect game. So, on Wednesday, June 2nd, the Detroit Tigers were facing off against the Cleveland Indians in what seemed to be turning into a history making game. The young 28-year-old pitcher for the Tigers, Armando Gallaraga, was on the verge of finishing off an epic performance with 26 outs, and 1 to go in the ninth. Yet, what happened after he threw what seemed to be a career making pitch, saw the batter dribble the ball between first and second, and ran to first to receive the catch from his teammate and make the out, stunned the entire stadium. The umpire, Jim Joyce, a vetran in baseball officiating, called the runner safe. The thing was, the call was clearly wrong. Gallaraga had made it to first and caught the ball before the batter made it there. Everyone in the stadium saw it. The instant replay confirmed it. Even the runner, Jason Donald, looked stunned. So what happened? What was Gallaraga’s response to a call that would strip him of what seemed to be rightfully his: a title that would immortalize him in baseball history? He smiled. He smiled at the ump! Questions began to arise in everyone’s minds. What was Joyce thinking?? What will Gallaraga say? How could a guy with 25 years of experience make a call like that, in a game like this?

Joe Posnanski, a writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote an article about the incredible game and focused particularly on the response of both the pitcher and the umpire to the difficult situation. His observation of their attitudes towards one another highlights an important lesson to be learned.

“When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Gallaraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.

Gallaraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think that most baseball fans will believe that. But more than anything, it seems that Gallaraga will always believe that. The way he handled himself after the game, that was better than perfection… Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.”

In fact, the next game, as a peace offering, to show that he wasn’t angry or resentful, Gallaraga went right up to a teary-eyed Joyce and handed him the game card along with a handshake, amidst thousands of cheering fans.

The story of this game and how the umpire responded with much humility, readily admitting his missed call, and how the pitcher displayed much grace, in spite of what had been lost, highlights a very essential truth that every believer should think much upon. We read in God’s word the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 and see a picture of God’s unfair dealings with us. Unfair because, just like the father in the parable, God does not treat his children as they deserve. The son squanders his inheritance and turns his back on his father. When he comes to his senses and decides to return home, he is received lovingly and joyfully by his father who waited eagerly for him. The son deserved rejection, disownment, and maybe more! But what did the father do? He embraced him. In the same way, our sins against an infinitely holy God deserve His wrath, His rejection, His punishment. And yet, on the cross, Jesus took that penalty that we deserved; death and separation from the Father. And what have we received in return? The loving embrace of a heavenly Father who now calls us His own children and has cancelled out the debt that we owe as a payment for our sins.

What did Jim Joyce deserve from Armando Gallaraga? He deserved irate screams. He deserved to have people call him a fool for making that call. He received all this and much more, but not from the man who would have been justified in doing it. Instead, graciously, Gallaraga extended his forgiveness and quickly acknowledged that Joyce should not feel guilty.

Can we thank God today, that He has dealt with us in a way that we don’t deserve? Can we be humbled by the grace that was shown to us on the cross? Let us be quick to acknowledge how clearly guilty we are of sin, and humble our hearts towards God, who has not treated us as we deserve, because of the sacrifice of His Son.

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