What Jesus Freaks Can Learn From Baseball Fans

Farewell to a legend

On September 28, 2014, Derek Jeter, the legendary Yankee shortstop, played his final game of Major League Baseball. In the third inning, his second at-bat for the game, Jeter knocked an infield hit over the reach of third-baseman Garin Cecchini for an RBI single. After a moment on base to consider the weight of the moment, Jeter signaled to his manager that it was time, and then he walked off the field and into retirement...and undoubtedly into the Hall of Fame. 

Everyone present at Fenway Park that day understood the significance of the moment. They witnessed the curtain call of one of greatest and most respected baseball players of this generation. And that's when it happened. As ESPN writer J.R. Moehringer describes, "that familiar chant, which has become his theme song, his war cry. Two descending musical notes, G-sharp, F, G-sharp, F, a downward sloping cadence that sounds almost like a playground taunt. DER-ek JE-ter! Nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah." 

Over and over again they chanted his name. For the next two minutes, there were no Red Sox fans, no Yankees fans; just baseball fans. More than that, they were sport fans. Culture fans. America fans. Fans of life itself, experiencing in that moment both greatness and sadness that is familiar to all of us. There in Fenway park, for one night only, a fierce sporting rivalry more than 100 years in the making was cast aside to honor the career, the memories, the man, the name of Derek Jeter. And it was beautiful.

They were called Christians

In Chapter 11 of the book of Acts, we read that followers of The Way for the first time were called Christians. It reads almost as a side note, some translations even placing the comment within parentheses (v.26b). Yet that simple observation speaks volumes about Gospel. For centuries - for as long as anyone could remember - there was a bitter division between Jews and non-Jews. The Jewish people viewed themselves as the people of God, and rightfully so. But this claim was held to the exclusion of all others. Gentiles were the enemy. If Jews were the Red Sox, then Gentiles were the Yankees. 

Yet there in Antioch something profound took place. Those who heard the Word of God and believed it began to understand that whatever they once were, whatever they had once done, had been replaced by what and whose they now were. The distinctions of race, ethnicity, location, and history all took a backseat to the realization that in Jesus Christ they had become - and were becoming - something new and something together

Whatever criticisms and jibes that once dominated the relationship between these two people groups gave way to one unified voice proclaiming the glory, honor, and majesty of a singular name: Jesus Christ. 

Such is it when we come to Him. Whatever name we once gave ourselves, whatever job or ethnicity or skin color or accomplishment or failure fed into our identity gives way to the simple and profound truth that we are children of God. We bear the name of Jesus and he welcomes us as his own. This is what it means to follow Christ. In our humanness we are distinct and different in thousands of ways, but we are first and foremost unified in Christ. Perhaps that it what John the Baptist meant when he famously exclaimed, "He must increase and I must decrease." 

Our identity is not primarily defined by career choice, geographical location, political association, sexual orientation, or by which team we cheer for. Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Our identity is as Christians. First, foremost, only. And that, brothers and sisters, is beautiful.

DAN JACKSON

Dan is a pastor, author, and speaker. He is the founder and lead contributor for My Ordinary Faith and currently serves as a Campus Pastor for Southland Christian Church in Georgetown, KY. 

 

Header photo credit: Nick Laham via ESPN The Magazine