I have always loved baseball. I love playing it, I love watching it, I love reading about it, and I love talking about it. Growing up, I played baseball every season and enjoyed playing a sport I loved with my friends. One particular season was slightly different though. You see there was this kid who pitched for another team and he and I didn’t exactly get along very well. We went to the same school but hung out in different circles so there is no reason we shouldn’t have just been cordially nonchalant towards each other. We were just drawn to disliking one another and went out of our way to antagonize each other.
In the younger leagues, we never played in the same division but as we got older and the leagues became more specific based on talent, we wound up against each other. That particular season was rough for me anytime we played his team. Why? Because he would always hit me when I came up to bat. Every time, never failed. The off-the-field issues between me and this kid combined with my highly competitive nature made for a rough time. My coach and his coach spoke with us about the situation, his parents and my parents spoke about it, nothing changed.
The thing is I didn’t really mind too terribly much because it made me feel justified in some way for how I treated him. I could ridicule him, talk about him behind his back, maintain this resentful and begrudging nature towards him as long as he was doing the same to me.
Expressing mercy has always been a weakness of mine. I have a bad habit of wanting to reciprocate towards others how they’ve made me feel. I want them to understand what they’ve done and then I want them to feel what I’ve felt. It gets even worse if I feel like they’re getting away with it. I’m very much a “justice must be served” person and it drives me crazy when I feel like anyone is getting away with anything.
This isn’t a Christ-like mentality. There are several times we see this being taught in scripture (Luke 6:27-28, Matthew 5:39, Romans 12:14) but the best example is seen in Christ’s death. Christ didn’t just die for his disciples. He didn’t just die for his family and his friends. He died for those who spat on him. He died for those who cursed, abused, beat, and nailed him on to the cross. He died for those who betrayed him. He died for those who took his name in vain.
If Christ can endure all of those things for everyone who despised Him, why is it so hard for us to uplift someone who speaks ill towards us? Why is it so hard to love those who betray, antagonize, and hate us? Christ gives us a command to “love our enemies”. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command and it’s so important. We are the church, the body of Christ, and in this day and age where so many are willing to spew hatred in the name of Christ, it’s significantly more important that we reach out to show our God is a father figure who loves and extends mercy.
I’ve spoken before about the significance of the symbolism of the cross in relation to love. Not only is the cross the greatest symbol of love, it’s also the greatest symbol of mercy. We can look at the cross and dwell on a man who didn’t just die for us, He died for that person gossiping about you, He died for that person who just screamed at you and cussed you out, He died for that person who cut you off on your morning commute. He died for you, He died for me, He died for all of us.