New City Catechism. Week Twenty-Two Q&A: Q. Why must the Redeemer be truly human? (That in human nature He might on our behalf perfectly obey the whole law and suffer the punishment of human sin.) The question for week twenty-three is: “Why must the Redeemer be truly God?”
A few weeks ago Todd Mast gave me an article that contained a very effective object lesson. Let me share a portion of it with you.
In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a career coaching baseball that began in 1948. On this occasion, he shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation from the thousands of coaches in attendance at the American Baseball Coaches Association national clinic. He was wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.
After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.
Then, finally …
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from a mental hospital, he said, his voice growing irascible. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.
“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up. How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”
“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.
“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”
“Seventeen inches!” Was the unison response.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”
“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide is it?
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him down to the minors!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.
“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches, so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'” Pause.
“Coaches …” Pause.
“…What do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair, and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him--do we widen home plate.”
The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!” Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house, he added a small American flag.
“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast, and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?
At this point, I’d like to take over Coach Scolino’s speech and add: …and this is also a problem in many churches today. We’re too often unwilling to call sin, SIN. We want to sell the world on a God that just wants us to “try to be good.” A God that’s all grace and no justice. The Moralistic Therapeutic Deism of our age encourages the “church” to “widen the plate” until everybody can be comfortable with its parameters. But Matthew 7:14 tells us that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The Bible makes it clear that none of us can throw a strike on our own. But Jesus is the ultimate “Closer.” He’s not just a “reliever,” He’s the believer’s “Redeemer.” We can’t keep widening home plate giving everyone the impression that they can pitch themselves into heaven. We need to take the coach’s words to heart and hold [the world] accountable; reminding ourselves and those around us who are unsaved that “we [can’t] change the rules to fit” what we want to accept.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. [But] by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Submitted by Jim De Horn