This column is the first in a series of periodic reflections from CBFNC executive coordinator Larry Hovis, distributed through various CBFNC electronic and social media, on CBFNC’s current ministry focus: “Collaborating with North Carolina Fellowship Baptists to strengthen and develop Christ-centered missional community in these rapidly changing times.”
At 2 pm on July 9, 2011, Derek Jeter, shortstop for the New York Yankees, made history. In a game at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays, in the third inning, Jeter hit a home run against David Price of the Rays. It was Jeter’s 233rd home run of his career. But more importantly, it was Jeter’s 3000th career hit. Because baseball is driven by statistics, here are a few related to Jeter’s achievement:
· Jeter is only the 28th player to reach 3000 career hits
· He is the first Yankee to reach that milestone
· He is the sixth youngest player to join the 3K club
· Jeter is the eleventh player to have made 3000 hits with one team
· He is the second person (the other one being Wade Boggs) to have reached 3000 with a home run
As great a feat as this was, another part of the story is even more amazing. What is every baseball fan’s dream? To catch a ball off a major league hitter’s bat, especially a home run, especially a record-setting home run. The lucky Yankee fan, a 23-year-old cell phone salesman who caught Jeter’s record-setting ball, was in the right place at the right time and benefited from the fact that his father couldn’t hold on to it. Experts estimated that the ball would fetch more than a hundred thousand dollars on the auction block. So what did this fan do? This fan with two hundred thousand dollars in college debt? He gave it back to Jeter. He said,
"Mr. Jeter deserved it. I'm not gonna take it away from him. Money's cool and all, but I'm 23 years old, I've got a lot of time to make that. It was never about the money, it was about the milestone."
The young man’s name, appropriately, is Christian Lopez.
What would our world be like of all people - no, narrow it down a little bit - if all Christians acted like Christian Lopez. If we truly thought of others’ needs before our own. What would our world be like if churches were communities that corporately modeled this kind of selfless behavior, and formed community members who put personal profit aside for the good of their neighbors? How would if affect our programming, our budgeting, our ministries?
I know nothing of Christian Lopez’ faith commitments, but whether he was conscious of it or not, in returning the baseball to Derek Jeter rather than keeping it for himself and possibly eliminating his debilitating college debt, Christian was following after the example of his namesake, a way of life described by the Apostle Paul in this way:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:1-14).What would our world be like if Christians and churches really, truly, every day acted like Christian Lopez, who gave generously and selflessly like Jesus? That would set a record to end all records.