September 19, 2011

Mercy Instead of Justice

As we head into the home stretch of this year's Baseball season, I thought I'd share the story that caused me to no longer follow Major League Baseball.

It's 1996. It was a close call. One that instant replay could not justify. Maybe the umpire was lying. Honestly, most people will forget the circumstances of the moment as far as baseball is concerned. Fewer still will remember the accuracy of the umpire's decision. But what ensued after "the call" is impossible for me to forget (or forgive).

In the fracas that followed, Roberto Alomar began arguing with the umpire, John Hirschbeck. Davey Johnson, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles, rushed over to get between Alomar and the Hirschbeck. Johnson came into the picture to keep his All-Star second baseman from being ejected, not to dispute the umpire's call. What happened next shocked the sporting world.

As Johnson continued trying to shield Alomar from the umpire, Alomar leaned over Johnson's shoulder and spit in the face of the umpire. It was uncalled for. It was unsportsmanlike. It was gross!

One sad part is that the umpire was unjustly abused. (Alomar was ejected and eventually suspended and fined). Another somewhat sad part was the league's apparent apathy toward the matter, allowing Alomar to continue playing in the American League Championship Series by stating that suspensions apply only to regular season games.

However, in my mind, the most sad part was that a young man who spent several years honing his skills to become a six-time Golden Glove second baseman, deservedly lost the respect of the sporting world in less than two seconds.

The Orioles eventually lost to the Yankees in the Championship Series. An extremely rare Alomar error played a major role in the loss. Some say that this is poetic justice. I say that it is no justice at all. He shouldn't have been allowed on the field. Simply by being allowed to make the error, he got better than he deserved. . .

. . . I now better understand the level of rage that I ought to feel because they spit on my Lord. Not just once, but repeatedly. He did nothing to deserve it. Unlike the umpire, he didn't argue or retaliate. He had only one recourse: to die for them and all of the folks just like them.

If that umpire had been my son, my first reaction would be to take a Louisville Slugger to Alomar's noggin. But the Heavenly Father doesn't operate that way! He delivered his Son to a spit-soaked, shame-drenched, sin-saturated death. Jesus washed the feet of Judas, blessed those that cursed Him, and died for those who did not deserve it...and that includes us.

Is this fair? No! Whether we admit it or not, we grieve God at times. But like Alomar, we are receiving an opportunity to live a life that we do not deserve. I think the Bible calls it mercy.

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