As I watched my beloved Auburn Tigers almost lose their first game as the #1 basketball team in the nation Tuesday night, the ticker at the bottom of the screen informed me (repeatedly) of big news coming out of the Major League Baseball (MLB) world. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds didn’t receive enough votes to enter the 2022 Hall of Fame (HOF) class and were blocked from ever getting in. According to the rules, after 10 years of voting, that’s it. If you don’t get in after a decade, you’re never getting in. One must receive 75% of the votes to be a Hall of Famer. Barry Bonds received 66%. Roger Clemens 65.2%. They’re Out! (See what I did there?)
Even if you know nothing about baseball, there is a good chance you have heard of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Bonds is MLB’s career home run leader. Clemens won a record seven CY Young Awards for pitching. In other words, they are legends. One hit more home runs than any other MLB player. The other kept MLB batters from hitting home runs more than any other pitcher. Bonds and Clemens devoted their lives to the sport. Every young man who loves sports longs to be in “the Hall.” It’s the crowning achievement of being an elite player. Both were the elite of the elites and were left out. How? Why did they not get enough votes? Suspicious use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). During their careers, both Clemens and Bonds supposedly used illegal substances to enhance their efforts on the baseball diamond. In other words, they cheated. And the MLB Hall of Fame voters refused to let it go.
To be sure, there are many directions we could take this. I have lots of thoughts. I mean, for one, how many sports organizations do you know that include a character clause for admittance? Or what about consistency? Do you know that the one MLB player who did get voted into the Hall of Fame this year (David Ortiz), has also been accused of using PED’s? And what about the others who are left off the ballot because of things they did off the field? (Pete Rose comes to mind.) To be sure, MLB’s Hall of Fame voting is fodder for conversations that could go on for a long, long time.
But here is the base route my mind is currently running on(again, see what I did there?). What happened with Bonds and Clemens and the Hall of Fame is the air all of us breathe, all the time. We messed up and people will not let it go. We did wrong and the stain is never removed. We committed an error and the enemy constantly shoves it in our faces. Someone else did better than us and gets all the accolades. It’s so exhausting! The news scrolling across the bottom of my television set last night just made me tired. Clemens even tweeted that he put the HOF in the review mirror ten years ago. The fact he had to say it lets me know it still weighs on him (though he said it didn’t). If we aren’t always looking to be as good as such and such; or if we aren’t always getting beat out by another player; or if someone else is getting all the attention; then we are getting beat up by something we did that cannot be undone. Someone is always outperforming and someone is always reminding us of the mistake(s) we made. Someone will always be doing something “better” for God than we are. Someone will always – directly or indirectly – remind you of the sin you committed years ago (or yesterday). It’s true in sports. And it’s true in life. You and I can argue all day about who should and shouldn’t get in the Hall. That’s fine. But isn’t it just a microcosm of the space we live in? Isn’t what is going on in the world of MLB just a public display of what goes on within and around us all the time?
If you’re reading this, you probably already know what I am about to say. But if you’re reading this you’re human and need the reminder. The news coming out of baseball’s most prestigious honor last night is yet another pointer to our need of the glory, the beauty, the peace, the comfort, the joy, and the grace that is the Gospel. It really is a relief. It really is life. And it really is necessary that we swim in the Gospel waters constantly. Nowhere else can we hear we are loved, forgiven, enough, known, desired, and free than in the Gospel of Jesus. Nowhere else are we given permission and “ordered” to be ourselves than in the Gospel. Nowhere else are we able to live in complete confidence and security and fearlessness than with Jesus in the Gospel. Remember what God said to Jesus at His baptism? He said, “This is my Son whom I love. With Him I am well pleased.” Do you know that if you are in Christ, God says that to you? That’s right. You are loved as the very Son of God Himself and God is pleased with you and who you are. Period. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever NOT need that.
When I turned off the TV Tuesday night, I was tired. I was emotionally tired because Auburn almost lost to Missouri. Auburn had been number one in the nation for the first time in school history for one day. And I thought twenty-four hours would be all I would get to enjoy it. But I was also spiritually tired. The whole world was reminded of Barry Bonds’ and Roger Clemens’ shortcomings. A player accused of the same thing got in the Hall instead. It’s the world I (we) live in. Our sins are always there and someone else is always better. It’s so exhausting. It’s why we always need the Gospel. When we let our tired and weary selves go there, we will find rest.