My all-time favorite baseball player was the great Roberto Clemente. I remember many wonderful summer afternoons at the old Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, watching Clemente and the Pirates play. He had a flair, a zest, an unbounded enthusiasm for the game—and crowned his on-field achievements (including the award for most valuable player in the Pirates’ 1971 World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles) by recording his 3,000th hit in what would be his last regular season at-bat on September 30, 1972. His illustrious career was cut short when three months later, on December 31, 1972, he was killed in a plane crash while taking humanitarian aid to victims of a major earthquake that had occurred in Nicaragua. His example is remembered today in the “Roberto Clemente Award”, given annually to the major league baseball player who best models Clemente’s humanitarian example. It is a celebration, not just of a baseball player, but of the life of a man who sought to make a difference for hurting people in the world.
In the Bible, we are also reminded of the value of remembering those who have gone before us—those who lived life well. One such example was the tribute paid to Stephen, the first martyr of the early church. When Stephen was stoned to death by the religious establishment, it was with the consent of young Saul of Tarsus. That, however, would change. Later, Paul the apostle would look back on that moment (Acts 22:20) as a turning point in his life. Stephen’s life and death impacted the world in many ways—but especially through the impact it had upon Saul.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the spiritual legacy we have received by, in chapter 11, describing some of those upon whose shoulders we stand. Of them it says:
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Their faithfulness enabled them to obtain a good testimony. We would do well to follow in their steps, faithfully seeking to honor Christ in all things, so that, like Stephen and the martyrs of Hebrews 11, those who come behind us will find us faithful. Join us tomorrow on Sports Spectrum radio as we discuss honoring those who have gone before us.
Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain