By Andy Smith

I love baseball. I’ve been a Detroit Tigers fan for years. I collect baseball cards as a hobby. But I haven’t heard too many sermons that mention my favorite sport!

Here’s the question Pastor Rossow threw at us (pun intended) on Sunday. In a worship service, are you more like a dartboard or like a catcher on a baseball team?

Believe me, I was all ears.

If you’re a dartboard, he said, you’re a passive target. God might have a message to throw at you–through the pastor’s preaching or by way of the music–but you figure it’s up to God to hit you. You’re doing nothing.

If you’re like a catcher, you’re actively looking for something coming your way. God throws you His message. You might have to reach a little to the left or a little to the right to grab it. You’re doing something.

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A good catcher knows that some pitches are more difficult to catch than others. Our current sermon series confronts us with paradoxes. Last week we learned that Jesus is both strong and weak. This week He’s both gentle and harsh.

These aren’t straight pitches. These are curveballs.

Look at the words of Jesus in the New Testament. He can be harsh. He tells me that I have something evil in me: I’m sinful and I’m a sinner. He tells me what can and will happen to me–what I deserve because of my sin. He warns of a coming day of wrath.

On the other hand, Jesus can be gentle. He has compassion for humanity, and He acts in tender ways. Jesus touches people–children, blind men, lepers, and the crippled–to convey His affection for them.

As catchers, we fool ourselves if we think of Jesus as only gentle or only harsh. That’s overly simplistic. To catch the truth, we must confront the paradox.

Jesus is both gentle and harsh.

He’s harsh toward those who are comfortable … those who believe that they’re OK, that they’ve made it. He’s harsh toward me when I think that I am, after all, a loyal and active member of this church.

I know quite a bit about the Scripture, and I try to give to others, so I can think I’m OK. At those times He is harsh to shatter my self-deception.

He’s gentle toward those who are broken and know it. He’s gentle toward those who realize their own inability to save themselves. He’s gentle toward “a broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51:17) which confesses its sin and confesses its powerlessness against sin.

An active catcher will catch both– the harsh words with which Jesus rattles our complacency, and the gentle comfort that follows knowing that HE is enough.

And that’s a truth that I can live with.

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