On Monday of this week, I took my daughter and two of her friends to a local, indoor playground for a few hours. While there, a man, whose daughter started playing with my own, struck up a conversation with me. During the twenty or so minutes that we were engaged in conversation, I learned which church he attended, where his daughter goes to preschool, and where he lived. Eventually, I informed him that I was a preacher, and, so, I naturally asked him what he did for a living. It was then that I learned that he was a former professional baseball player. I did not recognize him, so, the next thing I asked was whether or not he made it to the majors. He responded affirmatively and told me that he had a decade long career there. I then asked for which organizations he played, and learned that he had played for several organizations including the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, and Miami Marlins. From there we engaged in a rather typical conversation about our kids, about our community, and a little more about baseball. I never asked for his name, but shook his hand when it was time to leave and said, “I hope you have a blessed day.”
After I got home, I decided to utilize what information I had gleaned from our conversation to figure out his identity. It was then that I realized I had been talking with none other than Jeff Francoeur, a 2007 Gold Glove winner and one of the “Baby Braves” who finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting back in 2005 after playing just half of a season. I imagine that it was somewhat surprising for “Frenchy,” as he is affectionately called, to interact with someone in the Atlanta area who, after learning of his occupation, failed to recognize him. This is the hometown hero who led Lilburn High School to two state titles in baseball. This is the guy who played five seasons for the Atlanta Braves, the last of which took place less than two years ago. This is the guy that Sports Illustrated dubbed “The Natural” on its August 25, 2005 cover after the phenomenal start to his career. And I didn’t even know who he was. After peeling the proverbial egg off my face for asking “The Natural” if he made it to the big leagues, I began to reflect on my obliviousness to his identity and was reminded of a few stories in Scripture.
I was reminded of Balaam who was oblivious to the angel of the Lord who attempted to kill him because he had chosen to cooperate with Balak against God’s orders (Numbers 22:22-35). Balaam’s story is a reminder that we can be oblivious to our own spiritual shortcomings. It may be that we are oblivious to our own sinful activities because we strategically rationalize what we do, say, or think in order to make it “right.” Such justification efforts are blinding because, at best, they make us hypocrites who are unable to recognize the log protruding from our eyes (Matthew 7:3-5) and, at worst, they make us equivalent to unbelievers who are “blinded” from “seeing the light of the gospel” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So, we should remember the warning that Solomon issued twice in Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (14:12; 16:25). Or, it may be that we are oblivious to our shortcomings because we ignore our spiritual ineptitude by assuming that our bare minimum efforts qualify as obedience. We should remember that Jesus called the Christians in Laodicea “blind” and instructed them to “buy from me…salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” all because they mistakenly thought that they were spiritually healthy when in reality they were, at best, spiritually stagnant (Revelation 3:17-18). So, we should remember the warning that Jesus issued to this church, “because you are lukewarm…I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16) and open our eyes to our need to “be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
I was also reminded of Elisha’s servant who panicked upon discovering that they were surrounded by the army of the king of Aram because he was oblivious to the army of the Lord stationed on the hills around them until Elisha prayed for his eyes to be opened (2 Kings 6:15-17). This story serves as a reminder that we can be oblivious to God’s operation in our lives. Now, by no means am I indicating that it is possible for us to know everything that God is doing. Scripture asserts that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God’s] ways higher than your ways and [God’s] thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). However, Scripture also indicates that our God is actively working, not passively watching. Paul says in Romans 8:28 that God promises to make “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Knowing that God is actively involved in this world should give us confidence to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) since He promises to be our ever present Helper (Hebrews 13:5-6) and there is nothing that can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
Finally, I was reminded of the two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and were oblivious to the fact that the stranger who walked with them and explained the Scriptures concerning the Messiah to them was, in fact, Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). This story serves as a reminder that one can be oblivious to the identity of the Savior. Such blindness to the Savior may be the result of ignorance or hard heartedness or dissatisfaction. Regardless of the cause, failure to recognize the Savior affects one’s salvation because Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
I may have been oblivious to the identity of Jeff Francoeur, but in the grand scheme of things it won’t matter. What will matter is whether or not I am oblivious to my own spiritual shortcomings because that may cause me to assume that I am spiritually safe when I am not. What will matter is whether or not I am oblivious to God’s involvement in this world because it may cause me to deny gratitude toward Him, let my faith be shaken, or ignore His will for my life. What will matter is whether or not I am oblivious to who Jesus is because my salvation is contingent on my recognition of His identity. I don’t want to be oblivious to what really matters, and, in order to prevent such blindness, I must, like David, “meditate on [the Lord’s] precepts and fix my eyes on [His] ways” (Psalm 119:15, emphasis added).