Reyes: Not The Way It’s Done

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes won the National League batting title Wednesday, but it will go down as a tainted accomplishment in the eyes of many.

Entering the day with a 2-point batting average lead over the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, Reyes led off the game with a bunt single and then pulled himself from the game, eliminating the chance for any later bad at-bats and the risk of his average dipping.

Certainly there’s no rule against what he did; it’s just incredibly lame. As ESPN’s Rob Parker writes (emphasis added),
Coincidentally, Reyes’ decision came on the 70th anniversary of Ted Williams sealing his historic .406 batting average in 1941. Williams, the Boston Red Sox slugger, played in both games of a doubleheader on the final day of that season, even though he began the day with his average at .400. Williams believed he didn’t deserve a .400 average if he sat out the two games against the Philadelphia A’s, and he wound up going 6-for-8, finishing with the improbable .406. Most people think that mark will never be broken.
Clearly, Reyes had no similar qualms about the need to “play it out.” Reyes is a free agent, and most people think that he’ll be somewhere else next season. Perhaps the worst thing for Mets fans is the fact that their last memory of a great player will be a disrespectful and ultimately selfish one.


Living From Jefferson’s Bible

If you know much about Thomas Jefferson (beyond the fact that he was instrumental in the crafting of the Declaration of Independence and later became the third President of the United States), you’re probably aware that he is well-known for his unorthodox religious ideas.1

Among other things, Jefferson’s worldview was heavily influenced by Enlightenment thought, and caused him to dismiss the miraculous elements of Christianity as unbelievable. Corresponding to his beliefs, Jefferson created his own version of the New Testament, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Using a razor, Jefferson literally cut out the parts of the Gospels that he didn’t like (things such as the incarnation, miracles, divinity, and resurrection of Jesus) and created a new book that was more palatable for him.

Christians today who claim to live according to the teachings of the Bible find this to be absurd—obviously you can’t just pick and choose which biblical teachings you wish to follow. After all, at the point when you start dismissing certain teachings because you don’t like them, you’ve basically ceased to follow the teachings of Scripture altogether and have turned yourself into the ultimate source of authority.

And yet…

For all of our insistence that we live based on the teachings of Scripture, if you look at the lives of Christians from a broad perspective, I would suggest that we, too, are guilty of creating our own versions of what the Bible says. We might not physically cut out passages with razorblades, but we practically do the same thing by ignoring certain teachings and living our lives in clear violation of others.

Probably there are many such teachings that we could use to illustrate the point, but just limiting ourselves to the words of Jesus, we can easily find several examples:

(1) Jesus’ Teachings on Divorce—

Statistics show that up to half of first marriages end in divorce, and subsequent marriages are even more likely to fail.2 Furthermore, religious belief doesn’t seem to have a great impact on these statistics, as conservative evangelical Christians are only marginally less likely to get divorced than non-believers.3 How do those statistics mesh with the teachings of Jesus?

At one point in His ministry, Jesus was asked if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all. He responded by saying that, “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.4

In our current climate of widespread divorce for a variety of reasons, this isn’t a passage that is talked about too often, and when it is discussed, it’s often explained away—I recently heard an intelligent, well-educated Christian minister argue that perhaps Jesus wasn’t limiting “unfaithfulness” to sexual immorality, but was also including “emotional unfaithfulness” as a legitimate reason for divorce. Although I am no expert on 1st century Jewish life, the idea of “emotional unfaithfulness” is a modern Western concept that is completely foreign to the New Testament text. In the context of Matthew 19.4-6, where Jesus talks about man and wife joining together to form one flesh, it is an explicit sexual reference. The unfaithfulness that He mentions in v. 9 (or “immorality” in the NASB) is clearly sexual unfaithfulness—Jesus is saying that the only legitimate reason for divorce is once spouse cheating on the other sexually.

This is undoubtedly a hard teaching for us to accept (as it was for Jesus’ original audience—see v. 10)—but does that give us license to ignore it?

(2) Love Your Enemies—

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a good deal to say about how we should respond to people when they mistreat us, and how we should feel about our enemies in general.5 Maybe we struggle to identify “enemies” in our everyday lives, but once again, this is a teaching of Jesus that we often neglect.

For example, I hear lots of public prayers on behalf of “our servicemen and women overseas” but I rarely (if ever) hear prayers for the individuals that those men and women are fighting against.

Certainly I have no problem with praying for US military personnel, but shouldn’t we pray for the other side as well? Regardless of how we feel about militant terrorists (and let me assure you, I’m not filled with warm feelings for them), isn’t this exactly the sort of thing Jesus was talking about?

(3) Treasure in Heaven—

Also in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged His audience to focus on building up spiritual wealth rather than the accumulation of earthly treasure.6 And this was not an uncommon topic—Jesus spoke about money a lot, and surely His teachings have implications for us, people who claim to follow Jesus who also live in the wealthiest society in the wealthiest time in history.

And what do those teachings say? Over and over again, they are consistent: spending our lives chasing after and accumulating possessions is foolish and wrong, greed is a sin, and we should use what we have to bless others.

I’m not denying the importance of good stewardship and providing for our families, but when multitudes of people around the world are dying due to starvation, contaminated water, and preventable diseases, how big of a house, how many cars, or how much money in the bank do we accumulate before stewardship becomes idolatry?

I could go on, but if you’re the average Christian, I’ve probably already stepped on your toes by now (I know I’ve stepped on my own).

I think living according to the teachings of Scripture is a noble pursuit, and for the Christian, is a necessary one. But by all means, let’s not get so wrapped up in talking about following God’s Word that we neglect actually doing it.

• • •

1 Jefferson is often described as a Deist, but this might be an oversimplification of his religious views. Regardless, he was certainly influenced by deist thinking.
2 http://www.divorcestatistics.org/
3 http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released
4 Matthew 19.1-12.
5 Matthew 5.38-47.
6 Matthew 6.19-34.


Observation #12

It’s often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions—I’ve always thought it would make more sense if the road to hell was paved with blazing fire bricks (or something along those lines).


New Church Website

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been working on a new church website in my free time. It’s taken quite a while because my free time has been somewhat limited, but finally, it’s up.

There’s still a bit of content to add, and not all of the features are functional yet, but it’s a start. I like it more than the older version.

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