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Bonds: an unjust pursuit

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Barry Bonds is on the cusp of breaking the most revered, most hallowed record in all of sports. And outside of the hometown loyalists in San Francisco, a lot of sports fans couldn’t care less.

Oh, we see the obligatory stories about the chase for Hank Aaron in the media. We see ESPN break in to show every Bonds at-bat. We hear the talk show hosts discussing the situation on the radio.

But even baseball commissioner Bud Selig couldn’t make up his mind until recently about whether he’d be on hand when Bonds surpasses Hammerin’ Hank. The apathy shown by Selig, and by so many baseball fans, is indeed stunning.

Maybe it’s because the surly Bonds has alienated so many people by the way he behaves himself. He’s a moody man by most accounts.

Maybe it’s because everyone sees the record as a foregone conclusion. There’s certainly no suspense of “if.” Only “when.”

Or, most likely, perhaps the lack of interest stems from the fact that baseball fans see Bonds’ record as artificially enhanced and chemically aided -– and they are frustrated by the lack of justice confronting the Giants’ slugger. They are likewise sympathetic to Aaron, who played the game with integrity and deserved better than to have his most prestigious record broken by a cheater -— assuming that the steroid allegations surrounding Bonds are true.

The whole ordeal violates our sense of fairness, equity and justice. For a man who likely accomplished so much through illegal means to hold such a cherished record -– it’s simply not right.

Justice is a concept embedded within us from an early age. Listen to siblings playing together for long, and you’ll most likely hear, “That’s not fair!” Kids know full well -– and instinctively — when they’ve been cheated, and they’re not hesitant to proclaim it to anyone who will listen. They also cling to the hope that their protests will invoke the justice of mom and dad, in the form of punishment for the offender.

This innate sense of justice is not merely an American phenomenon –- a whole “truth, justice and the American way” thing. No, it’s much broader than that. It’s a characteristic shared by all of humanity, because we all bear the imprint of our Creator, who is infinitely just. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrong,” Isaiah 61:8 tells us.

But despite the fact that our sense of justice reflects one of God’s attributes, we are not perfectly just like He is. God’s justice manifests itself in His hatred of sin. As a God of holiness, His justice demands that sin be punished. He cannot simply look the other way and shrug off sin as no big deal. He must address it and eradicate it.

We, however, conveniently manage to ignore justice when there’s something we want, and when we’re willing to cheat others to get it. Bonds is a classic example, but he’s by no means the only example.

As a nation, we’ve abandoned the concept of justice for the unborn, opting instead to reward the irresponsible with the “choice” to take innocent human life without cause. We fudge on our taxes, forcing someone else to carry a heavier load than they ought. We cheat our employers by not working as hard as we should.

Justice is a concept we’re quick to embrace, as long as it’s someone else we hope will reap the consequences. We want justice when we are the offended, yet we plead for mercy when we are the offender.

Fortunately for us, despite that fact that God is just, God is also merciful. That’s demonstrated clearly in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, where God’s justice met God’s mercy in perfect harmony. It was that act by which a holy and just God redeems fallen sinners -– a group to which we all belong.

So yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to feel angered and cheated by what Bonds is about to do. He has made a mockery of integrity and sportsmanship, and any punishment that comes his way will be too little, too late.

At the same time, Bonds is like the rest of us. As Christianity Today editor Mark Galli once wrote, “Lord, have mercy on Barry; he desperately needs it. But he’s hardly alone.”
Tim Ellsworth writes this column for BPSports, on the web at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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