Everything is connected. If you’re not convinced, one listen to John Hartford’s “I Would Not Be Here” should surrender you to the idea enough to continue reading this article. This morning I read two seemingly unrelated stories that will forever be linked in my mind. One came in the form of an email from a friend and the other was a transcript of the “60 Minutes” news show, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
From my earliest days as a Christ follower I’ve heard that a good question to ask yourself is this: Is your “Christianity” one of many items on your plate, or is it the plate on which every other aspect of your life resides? That question packed a pretty good punch to my gut as a young believer. It was further expounded on about ten years later as I began to read the writings of Francis Schaeffer. Dr. Schaeffer really rocked my world…or, to be clearer, he rocked my worldview. Beginning with ‘The God Who Is There’, he opened my eyes to see the connectedness of life, philosophy, art, culture, politics, and theology from the perspective of Biblical Christianity. I still download and listen to archives of his teaching from the L’abri audio archives during my work commute. They are free to download as long as you agree not to publish them or try to make money. What a great use of the internet!
Alright, back to my original thought. The two stories I read this morning. The first story was an email from a family of friends who recently went overseas with their special needs child to a pretty difficult part of North Africa to tell folks about Jesus. Some would read that last sentence and right away assume that they were not intelligent. That perhaps they were dropped on their heads a lot when they were young, or that they got bad grades in science. But, I assure you that my friends are very intelligent. One worked as a Physician’s Assistant, and the other worked as a Veterinarian here in the states. They could have easily lived out a plush American life. They didn’t have to give away all of their stuff and go overseas, but they did. And, they were really excited about doing it. They were so motivated to get there that my friend engineered a blender that attached to a bicycle so he could purée his daughter’s food in a new land where there were very few electrical outlets.
The other story I read was a transcript of the 60 Minutes interviews related to Alex Rodriguez and his performance enhancing drug (PED) suspension. “A-Rod” himself wasn’t interviewed, but his trainer/drug dealer, the MLB commissioner, and others talked about the lying, cheating, fraud, death threats, money, bribery, corruption, and slander that surrounded Alex’s quest for baseball immortality. How very sad. I won’t attempt to place any blame in that mess. I wouldn’t know where to begin; however, I do have empathy for many of those involved. I can assure you that you can’t love money too much and be a responsible father of eight children, but I would be lying if I said that I never loved money. I would also be lying if I said that I never wanted to be able smash baseballs in front of an adoring crowd. What would I do if I were given a $250,000,000 contract in my young twenties (and again in my mid-thirties) by a group of people who were constantly telling me how great I was, and that I was going to be the next <insert really awesome baseball player name here> , and that I will likely break a bunch of impossible baseball records? I’ll never know, but the depth of the downward spiral in the A-Rod story should cause all of us to question what we believe about ourselves. There are two sides to the story, but it is alleged in the interviews that someone in Alex Rodriguez’ camp offered to hide a key witness in Columbiawith a $20,000/month income until the scandals went away, and then threatened his life when he refused. Wow! I remember when Alex was a fresh faced kid playing in Seattle. That was a cool team. They had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, the Big Unit, and Jay Buhner (that outfielder with the really cool beard). But that was $500,000,000 ago for Mr. Rodriguez.
I wish things were different. I wish everyone had pure motives. I wish communication between people was easy and clear. But life isn’t that way. Life is really hard. And people are really bad. Yep, I said it. Everyone is really bad. It’s not a popular belief, but the Bible is clear about this. As you wander about the planet you are more likely to hear that people are basically good, but don’t be fooled. A quick analysis of our lying habits is probably the easiest way to prove our badness. Lying is bad. I’ve lied…in a pinch…when I was cornered. So have all of my kids. And so have you. None of us are proud of it. We know it’s not OK to lie, but we’ve done it. We’ve also done worse than that, but I won’t pry.
So, how many of us wanted to be like A-Rod when we were kids. I did. I wanted to play pro baseball. He was living the dream. He had what so many covet (there I go prying). It begs the question, if the most talented, wealthy, and famous guy who is living out the childhood dream of so many is capable of initiating all that was alleged in the 60 Minutes interviews, then what do you think the politicians are doing? They deal with even more money than Major League Baseball…can be just as famous…plus power. The news is littered with stories of political scandals centered on winning elections. I was going to list them, but this post is getting long enough already. And, if the politicians are so troubled what about us? Are we smarter than them? No. I think many of them are smart people with good ideas, and enter in with the best of intentions. Only to be corrupted in the crucible of the system, but now I’ve strayed. The Bible says that we are all broken and the world we live in is broken. A-Rod is broken. My friends who went to Africa are broken. And, I am broken.
My purpose in writing is certainly not about hero worship of my friends or A-Rod. It’s also not to kick Mr. Rodriguez while he’s down. I’ll try to wrap this up now by explaining that these two stories are forever linked in my mind, because my friend and Alex Rodriguez went to High School together. I remember the first time news of this former classmate came up in conversation. (I assure you it wasn’t an effort to drop names…it just came up.) He said that he often played basketball with “Alex”. I looked at my friend in disbelief (I think my mouth was gaping), and I probably said something clever, like: “No way!” What a dope I can be.
I will also wrap this up by sharing a quote from a really good sermon I heard yesterday in church. Paraphrased, it goes something like this: “We do what we do because of what we believe about God.” That’s true. What makes one broken guy that’s living the American dream give away his stuff to go into North Africa with the gospel? Well, I can’t speak for him, but at a minimum I know that my friend believes that God offers abundant and eternal life to broken people who follow Him. Read the Bible. It’s in there. My friend is living that abundant life now.