Carolyn and I just finished watching the last game of the regular season for the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the final game of the series with the Boston Red Sox. Before the end of the game, we learned that the Blue Jays would be in a position to play for the wild card spot in the American League because the Detroit Tigers lost to the Atlanta Braves. The only question was whether the Blue Jays would win over the Red Sox for the home-field advantage when playing for the wild card against the Orioles next Tuesday, October 4. The Red Sox have some heavy hitters, so even though Toronto was leading by 1 run (2 -1), could they hang on to win in the 9th inning, the Sox having last bats? Thankfully, for fans like us, they won!!
It’s fascinating that Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays closer, seems to be a man of faith since he regularly (without apology, it seems) has a little prayer each time he comes to the mound which he finishes with the sign of the cross. Furthermore, at the end of a game when it’s a win, he repeats the sign and blows a prayer skyward by lifting his hand to his mouth and then his forefinger to God. Whatever his Christian understanding, it’s evident that he feels some kind of dependence on God for the success of his game. There are times when Osuna isn’t successful, but most of the time he is.
It raises the question of how we should think of the game of baseball (or any other game) in relation to God’s will and the outcome? What is a reasonable theology of such a game? What is God’s relationship to the outcome of professional sport? So many people are involved as fans and have hopes for their team’s success. Does God care about these things? Are there principles of Scripture that might guide us in this quest?
One consideration is that God is directly involved in the affairs of every detail of the whole world. Speaking generally, we conclude from the Bible that He is continuously involved in His creation (i.e. See Psalm 145:9). Though there are laws that govern the operation of the universe that God has established, God is known to intervene in the affairs of the world — sometimes by His sovereign will, and sometimes in response to the particular prayers of His people.
But what about a game such as professional baseball or of other events in which people are deeply involved with their emotions, their dreams, and desires? Is this the kind of thing we could pray about and expect God’s intervention for good on our behalf?
On one hand, I’m sure God arranges outcomes according to His larger will for people in any particular location. But it may also be the case that He gives people the freedom to decide their own direction based on their own abilities as well as their faith. He is a God who gives freedom to people to determine their own destinies. A basic understanding of how God relates to humanity is that He allows them to make their own choices. Perhaps, in that sense He doesn’t involve Himself in the daily affairs of people.
Yet, there is also a good deal of evidence in the Bible that God works by His Spirit in the lives of people to at least influence their direction, based on His own prerogatives or based on what He alone can see in a person’s heart. We have only to think of His relationship to people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. Psalm 37:23 tells us that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in him.
The question of God’s involvement in the outcome of a game of professional baseball is a bit of a mystery. There are reasons to believe that God could influence the outcome or it might be that He leaves it in the hands of the players whom He has skilled in particular ways. To those for whom the game is a serious matter because of some aspect of their lives that God knows about, I’m sure that God might intervene in answer to their prayers. So it is that He can easily arrange for an outcome that may look virtually impossible from a human perspective — as in the Blue Jays winning the World Series!! 🙂
In Matthew 6 we read that God takes care to feed the birds and clothe the flowers of the field, and in Matthew 10:29, that a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without the Father in heaven knowing and caring about it. So if God pays that kind of attention to the flowers of the field and birds of the air, we should expect that He would have even more interest and care about the details of our lives.
Only God knows Roberto Osuna’s heart, but his act of petition and dependence on God can’t help but speak to the matter of our need for His help in the smallest details of our lives. I’m sure that kind of faith by some players as well as fans could make a difference in the outcome of a game — if it could actually serve God’s greater purposes for good in their lives.
That being said, I’m sure there are issues that are a lot more important to resolve than the outcome of any particular baseball game or season. If something like baseball is so important it could easily be regarded as an idol — something which would definitely not be pleasing to God. On the other hand, He could use something like baseball to illustrate His special care, especially in answer to serious prayer, for some of the smallest details in our lives. One thing is sure: both teams in a game can’t be winners. Yet God is able to accomplish His perfect will through both outcomes!