Okay, I’m no “sports enthusiast” (the quotation marks signify my somewhat snide observation that people, who are called sports enthusiasts, mainly participate by swigging beer on a Lay-Z-Boy), but just following popular culture has introduced me to the subject of batting averages. Furthermore, I am not all too fond of sports analogies, partly because I regard sports trivial at best, and a vehicle of chauvinistic provincialism and xenophobia at worst, partly because they tend to be too simplistic. On the other hand, their simplicity is what makes them useful. So there you are.
As a courtesy of those, who do not follow baseball or cricket enough to know, here is Wikipedia’s answer to what a batting average means in cricket or baseball. For those with slow bandwidth, in a nutshell: your batting average (in baseball) is the number of times you reach first base safely – because you hit the ball, not because of incompetent pitchers or basemen – divided by times at bat.
According to the same Wikipedia page, the all-time high batting averages are from the top: .367 (Ty Cobb, #1) to .342 (Babe Ruth, #9). In other words, if you reach first base 368 times in 1,000 times at bat, you will replace Ty Cobb as the #1 batter in baseball. Looking at it from the other side of the equation, this means that you strike out 632 times!
We are all aware that we are told to “confess and repent” in order to obtain forgiveness for our sins. However, not one single human being, with the sole exception of Jesus – as far as he can be considered mortal; I don’t know too much about that, but at least he “gave his life”, which means he died, which means he was mortal at least in one key aspect – has ever had a perfect record, or in other words, had a batting average of 1.0. Not even close.
I am all too aware that a stupid game is not the same thing as salvation. But… I still think there is a lesson here for us: You don’t have to have a perfect success rate to be considered good. For me there is a fundamental thing about realizing that. My personality makes me uncomfortably aware of my imperfections – and feel guilty about them.
I have interpreted the Faith vs. Works dialog in my own way (don’t we all?). For me, faith is what makes me want to do the right things (I think it’s a little presumptuous to talk about “good” works; I just try to do things I feel are right), and faith is what qualifies my actions: If my motivation is my love of God (in other words: Faith) and my fellow man, instead of some selfish motive, the Lord will be willing to forgive my failures.
I also like the Calvinist view that the way we live our life is an expression of faith more than a way for us to qualify for God’s mercy. That is precisely why it does not matter that I don’t find myself on the list all-time high batting averages. What matters is that I have faith and I put it to work. I have to do something with what I’ve been given (remember the parable of Talents).
This is, as I said, simplistic. But it is a way of trying to understand how our choices in everyday life relate to our salvation, seeing that no matter what, we will always be making mistakes. The Atonement of Christ was needed for at least these reasons:
- Despite our best efforts, we fail.
- There are those, who do not understand what they do sufficiently to be answerable to what they do (take little children, for example)
- The Lord is actually merciful to even those, who don’t give a damn. Really. The Sons of Perdition will be shut out, but even they will, to some extent, be treated with mercy, because he loves them, too.
What is an acceptable batting average?