There is a new movie, now showing, about the baseball career of Jackie Robinson, who as we all know was the first African-American to break baseball’s color barrier. He had to endure a get deal of racial prejudice when he broke into the majors with the Dodgers. There were unbearable insults and even physical attacks on the field. The film is entitled “42,” the number that Robinson wore. What is given little attention in movie is the personal faith of Jackie Robinson, which gave him the strength and courage to go through his ordeal. It is said that Branch Ricky, the general manger of the Brooklyn Dodgers was looking for a player “with the guts enough not to fight back.”
Both Ricky and Robinson had in common a devout Christian faith. Ricky knew that Robinson’s strong faith would help him face all the injustice he would face. Robinson earlier in his career had be mentored by a Methodist pastor who taught him,”that exploding in anger was not the Christian answer to injustice”. He learned that a life lived in submission to Christ was not weakness but actually heroic. Before he got the the Dodgers, Robinson began to see that the path to justice would come not through anger, hate and violence, but through love and restraint.
Each of us will face injustice and even opposition. How will we react? Our first impulse is to defend ourselves, justify our position, probably get angry, causing the other person to only get upset. Men, it is not easy when relationships aren’t fair. But with the Spirit of Jesus living within, we can cooperate with Jesus who has overcome the world by demonstrating the power of love to change lives. Paul exhorts us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). We are faced with a choice. By the grace of God we can purpose to act in love and compassion. It will not be accomplished in by having “the guts enough not to fight,” but by yielding to the Spirit of Jesus within us.
Paul reminds us that we have one debt that we owe everyone. That is the debt of love. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). So when we make the choice to love instead of reacting negatively, we are fulfilling God purpose in our lives. The reminder that we owe others the debt of love helps us practice caring for the other, rather then reacting when our rights are being violated. We are called to love. That is the will of God for us, plain and simple. God gives us the capacity to do so, as we surrender to his will for our life. May God not only give us the “guts” not to fight back, but rather the love to do so.