When you live in the Dallas area, you can't help but be overwhelmed by the sports mania right now. Our beloved Dallas Cowboys are kinda stinky this season, which has shocked the team's followers. They were supposed to be playoff contenders after last year's successful season. Uh--not so much!
The Dallas Stars are off to a great start this year, even without all-star, lifelong team member Mike Modano. He's playing for the...who?...the Red Wings??! That's just bizarre. But anyway, the Stars are 5-0-2 and looking good.
And then we have the Texas Rangers, our baseball team. In its 50-year history, they had won exactly one post-season game. In the words of a friend who lived in Dallas for many years, "The Rangers were there for pleasant family outings on warm July evenings, not baseball in October."
Until this year. They dominated their division so thoroughly that their run to the post-season became apparent soon after the mid-season break. When they knocked out their first-round opponents, the fans went berserk. It took some work, but they fought hard. We cheered hard. Then we faced the Yankees...not exactly our favorite opponents. And the Rangers blew them away in all aspects of the game. Our hometown underdogs, the guys who never made it to the big-time, the ones who might have only dreamed of going to the "big stage"...they crushed the most talented team that money could buy, the annual contenders. Crushed them.
Such sweet justice.
So how does baseball fever have any spiritual value? A question for the ages, no doubt. But the people in the Dallas/Fort Worth area have been so energized by the feel-good story of our underdog Rangers. We so badly want them to win, not just because they are our team. But because no one ever expected them to win. They've been perennial underdogs since they came to town back in 1971.
I think humans are wired to root for the underdog. We desire mercy, deep within. When losers are transformed into winners (even if it's not "our team") we cheer, our hearts are warmed, we (sometimes secretly) rejoice.
And so it is when we think of Jesus' future coming. The Book of Revelation talks of some crazy bad things that are going to happen one day, the Great Tribulation in which God pours out his judgment on the world. Read Revelation 6 and 8 to get a taste of what I'm talking about. You'll be rather horrified at thinking "God is going to do this to us?" At some level, you'll wish He were not quite as just as He is, that he would relent and not let people suffer the way they will. Those are some very bothersome chapters to ponder.
Likewise, when we think of hell, and eternal damnation, many people cannot stomach it. It's just too much suffering, we think. Surely God will end it at some point and just annihilate those who have rejected Him so they won't have to suffer forever. That's mercy talking, not justice.
Mercy is a good thing. It's a by-product, a fruit, of God's Spirit living in us. So use it, make it work for those who need it. Have mercy on the unbeliever by sharing the Good News of Jesus. Let God use you to influence others so that they don't have to fear coming judgment but will know the mercy of God in this life and beyond.
Have mercy on the sick, the suffering, the lonely, the hurt--by serving, visiting, caring for them. Stop just thinking about the underdogs, and move toward them with hands and feet ready to pull them up out of the darkness.
Without you, how will a hell-bound person ever hear about her Savior? Without you, how will a lonely widow be encouraged by an unexpected visitor? Without you, how will disaster victims be comforted? "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!" (Romans 10:15).
The Rangers are an inspiration this year. It's been great to watch them rejoice at each new victory. But watching and hearing the stories of God's people being His hands and feet...those bring me to tears. And knowing I've been a small part of someone else's journey toward healing, renewal, and hope brings joy and gratitude to my heart. And I'm inspired to keep doing it. To find someone else to love.
2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."