OK, let me start with the disclaimer. I am not a Los Angeles Dodgers fan; I am passionately a Vin Scully fan — the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer for the Dodgers, now into his 64th season at the ripe young age of 85.
There is a reason for this: I owe my ministry to Vin Scully, and his immeasurable influence on me as a communicator. But that is another story for another time.
All you need to know at this time is that I listen to Dodger games online every night or day that they play.
So with that out of the way, let me make this intriguing observation. In the off-season, the new owners of the Dodgers spent a cool $240 million to rebuild their faltering franchise into a bona fide World Series contender. Yes, they bought a team.
The slogan going into the 2013 season is, A Whole New Blue, blue referring to Dodger blue, the official team color. Now that is quite an audacious claim to fame.
The only problem is this: after their first three games — I know, I know; it’s only 3 games of a 162 game season — Nevertheless, they are 1-2, with a team batting average of only a buck 76; and a combined home-run total to date of exactly 1. BTW, that one home-run was hit on opening day by their starting pitcher. They are just 2 hits out of 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position. And to add insult to injury, in just three games they have already committed four errors. A whole new Blue. Are you catching my drift here?
So I’ve read with much amusement the fan comments at the bottom of the daily sports reports about this team. And there is a common thread that ties most of those comments together, a thought voiced by so many that I could not ignore it. One that none of us should ignore. Think of it as a little window into the thinking of many, many people.
One person in particular said it so well. He wrote, “Well, they may say it’s a whole new blue, but it sure looks like the same old blue to me.”
Think about that. Think about that as I repeat that cynical sentiment to you. “Well, they may say it’s a whole new blue, but it sure looks like the same old blue to me.”
Now why did that statement strike me so forcefully? Because — trust me on this — the disappointment, the frustration, the feelings of being set up only to be let down transcend the game of baseball. In fact, they go right to the heart of who we are and how we impact our world as Christ-followers.
No, that’s not a stretch. Not by any stretch of the imagination. That is a blunt reality. Let me explain.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that as committed Christ-followers, our lifestyles — the choices we make, the graciousness with which we treat others, the attitudes we place on daily display at school, or at work, or in our homes, or in our neighborhoods — ought to be distinctly different from those who do not love Jesus.
So dramatic, measurable, and observable ought to be this difference that when someone chooses to become a Christ-follower, he or she is said to be — in the words of Jesus — born all over again.
Paul made this pretty clear when he wrote this to the church in the city of Corinth, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Forget about A Whole New Blue. We’re talking here a whole new YOU. A whole new you and a whole new me. An audacious claim to fame, indeed. One that has nothing to do with batting averages or home-run totals. But one that has everything to do with how we live our lives. More specifically, how we interact with people every minute of every day.
Because the facts of life are these: Once we hang that claim around our necks that we are Christians (I prefer to refer to us a Christ-followers), people do watch us. And they watch us with an expectation that we will be different.
The world out there has every right to expect from us a different experience when dealing with Christ-followers in comparison to their dealings with those who do not claim to love or follower Him.
No, they are not looking for perfection. I don’t really believe that people expect us to be perfect. There was only one person who ever walked this planet’s sorry sod who was indeed perfect. And they killed Him. So no, we’re not talking perfection here. But we are talking about a few simple social graces.
People expect us — rightly so — to be a wee bit more sensitive to their needs and feelings than other people are. They expect us to care, sincerely care, about them. They expect us to be a little more patient, a little more understanding, a little more gracious, a little more accepting of others. A little more pleasant to be around. A little more respectful. To work a little harder, with a little less complaining and backstabbing, than their co-workers.
Jesus described His followers as the “salt of the earth.” A seasoning that adds spice and zest to those around us, just like literal salt adds spice and zest to food.
And when we fail to live up to our billing — as we will frequently do, sorry to say — people expect to see in us a measure of contrition, and to receive from us a sincere apology, an acknowledgement that we are not perfect, an authenticity and touch of humility. The kind of humility that, when we do color outside of the lines of gracious behavior, we will do all we can to right the wrong.
Is that too much for them to ask of a whole new you? And a whole new me? I think not.
Because you know what? Whenever someone formulates a thought that sounds anything like this: “Well, they may say it’s a whole new you, but it sure looks like the same old you to me,” there is embedded within that statement an understandable disappointment, a frustration, and feelings of being set up only to be let down.
Forgive the cliché, but when it comes to Christian living, this is where the rubber meets the road, my friends.
So if we can learn a life-lesson from the great American pastime called baseball — and there are, frankly, many such life-lessons that we can learn — let’s learn this one today:
If it is indeed true (and we know that it is, because the Bible says that it is) that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” let’s purpose in our hearts to live that way.
A whole new you. A whole new me.
A whole new gracious, loving, patient, giving, forgiving, gentle, spicy and zesty, whole new you.
Will you join me in this today?