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Gone if it’s fair

By Mike Ruffin It was very late on Tuesday, Oct. 21. The Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox were locked in the titanic struggle at Fenway Park that was game six of the 1975 World Series. Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk strode to the plate in the bottom of the twelfth inning. The score was tied 6-6. Pat Darcy, the Red’s eighth pitcher of the game, threw a pitch that Fisk lifted high and deep down the left field line. Fisk hopped down toward first base, waving his arms to the right, trying with all his might to convince the ball to stay fair. He leapt into the air as the ball struck the foul pole 310 feet away and just above the 37 foot high left field wall known as the ‘Green Monster.’ Sox fans at Fenway and everywhere else erupted in celebration. I smiled as I watch the scene unfold on the 13 inch black and white television in James and Eddie’s dorm room at the end of the hall where we lived during our freshman year at Mercer University. It is still one of the most dramatic moments in World Series history. It happened 40 years ago, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. Fisk’s solo home run allowed the Red Sox to defeat the Reds 7-6. Fisk’s shot just barely made it out of Fenway. But if he had hit it 500 feet to straightaway center field, Boston still would have won the game by one run. That’s because a home run counts as one run no matter how far the batter hits the ball. It’s the same way in other sports. A touchdown that’s scored from one yard out counts as six points; so does one scored on a 100 yard kickoff return. A 20 yard field goal gets you three points just like a 53 yard one does. A soccer goal scored from midfield is worth one point just like one made from right in front of the net. (For what it’s worth, this is why I think the three point goal in basketball was an unfortunate innovation. A goal is a goal is a goal.) Would Carlton Fisk have felt any better about his home run had he hit it way out to the deepest part of the field? No, he wouldn’t have. Plus, we wouldn’t have that iconic shot of him waving the ball fair. If you’re anything like I am – an average person just trying by the grace of God to do a decent job at being a human being – then you have to admit that you don’t usually possess or exhibit what could, by any reasonable measure, be called ‘great’ faith. And you may, like I do, sometimes beat yourself up over it. My advice to you is to stop it. Stop it right now. My further advice to you is to be glad for the faith you have and to let it do its thing in your life. In Luke 17, Jesus tells his disciples that they have to forgive those who sin against them. He’s really serious about it, so he says that if someone commits such a sin seven times in one day and repents seven times, then a follower of Jesus must forgive that person seven times. All those sevens are Bible talk for ‘You must forgive someone as often as necessary.’ Quite understandably, the disciples say, ‘Increase our faith!’ (I wonder if they said it in unison.) Then Jesus tells them that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed (which is teeny tiny), they could uproot a tree and plop it down in the ocean. Some very good scholars maintain that the construction of that sentence in Greek means that Jesus really says, ‘Since you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can uproot the tree and drop it in the Mediterranean.’ If that’s the case, Jesus is challenging his disciples to let the faith they have, little though it may be, do its thing in their lives. And if they’ll do that, they’ll find that they can do such outlandish and spectacular things as forgiving those who trespass against them, which is a whole lot harder than using spiritual telepathy to move trees around. I find this very encouraging because, when it comes to faith, I seldom hit a mammoth home run. My faith usually just squeezes inside the foul pole. But it still counts. Michael Ruffin is curriculum editor for Smyth and Helwys Christian publishers and a native of Lamar County. He has served Baptist churches in Fitzgerald, Adel and Augusta. Ruffin also has served as Associate Professor at the School of Religion at Belmont University. He preaches at The Rock Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

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