26. “Back Up!”
Scripture Reading: Galatians 6:1 – 6
Key verse: Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (ESV)
I’ll never forget one of the first lessons I learned when I started playing Organized Baseball. I first got into Little League when I was 10 years old. It was my friends Brian, Wesley, and Steve who finally talked me into signing up and trying out. The Lord only knows in which round I was selected in the draft – probably very late, considering my lack of athletic skills. But I was very happy to have ended up on the Minor League Red Sox. That was because Steve’s dad was the Red Sox manager, and he managed to get three of us – Wesley (who was an outstanding athlete, even as a young 9-year old), Steve (a decent 10-year old) and me (Brian ended up playing for the Dodgers) What a way to start my career, on the same team with two of my best friends, coached by one of their dads!
By the way, our Little League system was structured this way (which was typical at the time); the Low Minors, sometimes referred to as Pee Wees or T-ball (even though they didn’t hit the ball off of a tee) was for almost all 9-year olds and a few of the less athletic 10-year olds; the Minors, which included the best 9 year olds, most 10-year-olds, a few 11-year-olds, and a handful of 12-year olds who couldn’t make it in the Majors; and the Majors, where most 12-year-olds played with the majority of 11-year-olds and only the very best 10-year-olds. So, in the Minors, I wasn’t playing at the lowest level I could be at 10 – at least I had that going for me.
Well, we had that first practice, which was always one of the most thrilling days of our baseball “careers”. We not only got to meet our new teammates, but we got possibly the most important item we ever received in our young lives – our brand-new hat. Ours was, of course, a bright red baseball cap with a white circle on the front that contained two red socks (like the Boston logo at the time) above the words “Red Sox”. That, more than the rest of the uniform (that was not given out until just before the first official game) really made up feel like a team!
After lining us all up at third base and hitting us grounders, one at a time, Steve’s dad (Mr. S.) and Wesley’s dad, who was a coach, could assess the fielding abilities of each member of the team. After watching me react to and probably botch the first ball badly, Mr. S. directed me to where I ended up – the outfield. To be more specific, I’m sure after watching me field, one of the coaches probably said, “Joe, do you know which way to go to get to right field?” That’s right – I was soon patrolling the graveyard of Little League fielders… the place they put kids who they hope nobody will hit the ball to… the destination of the worst fielder on every Little League team, right field.
So we started fielding practice – that typically means that the manager puts guys at all nine positions and starts hitting grounders to the five infielders (including the pitcher), every now and then remembering that there are also three outfielders who might occasionally want to field a fly ball. So, for most of fielding practice, the outfielders just stand around doing nothing…
Well, I wasn’t exactly doing nothing. In April, there were dandelions all over the outfield, ready to be picked, or kicked (especially those white balls!), or just to enjoy their company. Oh, there would be a fly ball hit (which I generally missed completely), but, more commonly, the first or second basemen would miss a grounder that we would have to retrieve. Unless the ball was past them, I just stood in my spot – the infamous “Right Fielder’s Brown Spot” – where I positioned myself until told otherwise.
When I retrieved a grounder missed by our first baseman – a kid with the great Irish name of Finbar – I heard a man say – “Hey, back up!” After dutifully taking a couple of steps backwards, closer to the fence, I heard him then say, “No, no! Back up your infielders.”
Ohhh… I realized who it was – it was Finbar’s dad, giving his son pointers at first. I think he could tell that I still didn’t understand what he meant, because he explained it: “Start moving behind the infielders as soon as the ball is hit toward them. That way, if they do miss it, you can be right there behind them and not have to make such a long throw.”
Oh, I see that he had been watching me throw. It was true – I may have been a bad fielder, but throwing the ball was the worst part of my game. I had an extremely weak arm, so – hey, backing them up makes the throws shorter for me! This was starting to make sense – by moving before they miss it, I’m right behind them if they do, so I can be ready to throw the ball sooner. Hey, this is cool! And, not only did it work – to make the throws shorter – but it also got me moving much more often and practices didn’t need to be so boring for us outfielders. Whatta ya know ‘bout that!
In our Bible verse today, Paul is giving practical advice to the churches the Lord used him to establish in Galatia. After advising them to restore a sinning member of the church to fellowship in verse 1 of Chapter 6, he continues the general idea of “backing one another up” by commanding them to “bear burdens” for each other. These burdens were extra-heavy loads – difficulties or problems that people have trouble dealing with. To “bear” or to “carry” means to do it with endurance.
That’s what a church should be – a place of restoration and a place where burdens are carried for each other. And why? To “fulfill the law of Christ.” And what is that? The law of love, as our Lord told us in John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (ESV) That’s what a church exists for – to demonstrate to the world the love of the Lord. And we do that by carrying each others’ burdens – backing each other up! That’s the way to stay in the game – the life of the Body of Christ, His church. So “Back up!” believer! We’re all on the Lord’s team!
Thought: Bearing burdens should be the backbone of the church!