I like sports. I only casually played sports as a teenager, but I enjoy football and baseball and, of course, I have my favorite teams. And although I have attended many NFL football games and many major league baseball games, like most men, I enjoy sitting back with some snacks and watching a good game on the big screen. However, this last year while watching the World Series, I noticed something that happens frequently in every game, but I had never really given it much thought. It’s kind of like reading a scripture verse a thousand times over a period of years and even preparing lessons on that particular verse, and then one day while reading it, you notice something you’ve never noticed before. That’s what happened to me while watching the World Series.
During the game, from time to time, the baseball would hit the ground as it was thrown or as it was foul-tipped off the bat of the batter. I noticed that each time that happened, before the ball was put back into play, the catcher picked up the ball and handed it to the home plate umpire, who fully examined it for any marks or flaws. He would only hand the ball back if it was perfect. Otherwise, it would get tossed aside and a brand new factory–fresh ball was put into play.
Once when this happened, I heard the Spirit of God speak to my heart and ask me a question and the question was this. “Why was the ball replaced?” The more I thought about this, the more I began to realize that the ball is not replaced in every baseball game. For example, when we played baseball in my backyard as a youngster, we played until the ball was lost. No one ever looked at the condition of the ball. The scuffs and cuts on our community baseball showed that the ball had character. Only when the ball was hit over the fence and landed down by the railroad tracks, where it could not be found, would we gather our coins together and walk to the local Ben Franklin dime store to purchase another baseball.
So why was the ball replaced during the World Series with just the slightest mark on it, but never replaced in our back lot playing? The answer is actually quite simple. The importance, influence, and notoriety of the World Series game must be honored. The players in the World Series have passed multiple tests and are the highest quality athletes for their sport in the world. And because of their position and accomplishments, they are to be honored by playing with unblemished equipment. To have them play with equipment, uniforms, or in a stadium that does not reflect who they are shows disrespect. A damaged ball could adversely affect the game and thus bring dishonor to the players. To not replace a damaged ball shows dishonor.
Of course, my first thought was, “What does this mean to me?” Then I realized God was saying there is a time to recognize greatness and give honor. Over the next few weeks as I looked around and as I began looking for honor, I realized that, to a degree, our society has downgraded honor as something that is “old school” or the way things used to be done. And even leaders have begun to act like honor is not expected or needed. Recently world leaders were told to dress casually at their G8 leadership summit. Why? Because the world is changing. Too often leadership in the church forgets that we are not of this world and our respect for God is not based on the world’s system.
Until the current generation, everyone wore their best clothes to church. There is nothing wrong with being casual, but to wear a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to a wedding, as I saw recently, is totally disrespectful to the bride and groom, when the bride was wearing a dress costing several thousand dollars and the groom and all of his men were wearing tuxedos. Someone might say, “Well, maybe a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops were all the man had to wear to the wedding.” Well, that would only be true if he had spent all of his money on the BMW sports car he drove. There is nothing wrong with casual dress, but clothing is not what I’m talking about. I am talking about general respect and honor.
For example, last week, while attending a high school football game, veterans stood on the field and saluted the flag as the National Anthem was being played. Sadly, many around me continued talking loudly, laughing, and listening to their iPods. Some people may say, “They’re just kids.” You know what, they are right. However, they didn’t finish their sentence. They are just kids who have never been trained to show respect and honor for our nation, our flag, and the men and women who risked their lives for the freedom we have today.
But with all this being said, the thing I feel the Spirit of God was trying to show me was that above everything we must have honor and respect for God, His house, His leaders, and most importantly His Word. I know that we are living in the age of grace and that our salvation is not determined by the clothing we wear, or by the respect that we show. And we must be watchful to not get into legalism. But I do believe that in the same way the World Series is given honor, to a greater degree, the things of God should be given even greater honor.
The Father sent His Son and He died so that we wouldn’t have to. He took on sin so we could be forgiven (Isaiah 53:5). He took on sickness and disease for our healing (1 Peter 2:24), and He took on poverty so we could have prosperity (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is not a God who should be taken casually, but the Lord God should be given the greatest respect.
I have no intention of giving a list of rules to follow to honor God. I believe the honor or lack of honor we give God outwardly is only a reflection of the true honor and respect we have for Him in our hearts.
Of course we know the scripture tells us to be thankful (Colossians 3:15). But thankfulness should have an outward expression and that outward expression should be respect and honor.