By Matthew Hoskinson
I sometimes get nervous when I listen to Christian athletes talk about their faith on the big stage. While I appreciate their desire explicitly to give glory to Jesus during interviews, they can come off as glib, token, or perfunctory. Not that this is their intention, to be sure. That twenty-something-year-old-men would boldly speak the name of Christ in front of the cameras is a tremendous testimony to the work of divine grace in their hearts. But like most twenty-somethings, perhaps a bit more thought as to the relationship of the gospel to their profession would result in less-rote-sounding responses to interviewers.
This is why Josh Hamilton’s appearance last night on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption made such an impression on me.
PTI is one of the few shows I watch regularly. I don’t have as much time as I once did in order to keep up with the world of sports. I find PTI to be a relatively brief introduction to the major stories of the day. Besides, Tony and Mike are just funny. Sometimes crass, but generally funny.
During last night’s interview segment, called “Five Good Minutes,” they talked with Josh about his four-home-run game the night before. To put that in perspective, there have been twenty-one perfect games thrown (or twenty-two, if you count Armando Galarraga’s from a couple of years ago). Josh’s four-home-run game was just the fourteenth. A remarkable performance, to be sure.
Tony and Mike talked with him four-plus minutes longer than the allotted five. Humanly speaking, Josh is just a good interview. He took the occasion to share how the cross shapes the way he plays baseball.
Here’s the video:
1. Josh’s easy demeanor and genuine likability come through in this clip. A lesson for all of us: simply being kind, humble, and genuine opens doors for the gospel. We don’t need to be angry and intense all the time.
2. Josh has clearly thought through his circumstances in light of the cross. We should take a page from this book: what difficulties/issues/brokenness in this fallen world do I face today? How does a sight of the cross change my perspective? You could walk through the application sections of the NT epistles (say, Ephesians 4–6) and see the apostle do the very same thing.
3. Josh did not open his comments by saying, “All praise to Jesus.” He could have perhaps, but he didn’t. That does not make him unfaithful in his responsibility to communicate his faith. Let’s make sure we don’t create an artificial standard for Christian athletes, one that says, “If that guy’s a real believer, then the first words out of his mouth in every interview ought to be ‘Praise Jesus.’”
4. Josh did communicate the glories of Jesus in the interview. And he did it in a thoughtful, specific way. In your job, you likely cannot start every conversation or presentation with “I’m just grateful to the Lord Jesus that I can be here.” But you can thoughtfully and specifically speak of Jesus throughout your day. If the cross affects the way a guy plays left field, it affects everything.
5. Josh nailed the means of grace: “praying, getting in the Word, fellowshiping with other believers.”
6. Josh admitted his brokenness. He did not run from admitting he is still a sinner. We sometimes think that perfection is required in order to be a witness. In that case, none of us—from Peter on down through history—would qualify. You don’t have to be perfect, much less pretend to be perfect. Such pretension runs counter to the gospel. Instead, let us be humble witnesses, humbly admitting regularly that we are so broken that we cannot fix ourselves. And by so doing let us direct others’ attention to the Rescuer.
7. Josh isn’t the Rescuer. It’s easy to become infatuated with Christian athletes, whether Josh Hamilton or Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin. We think, “How much good for the gospel they could do! I hope they don’t fall.” But how quickly we forget that they are broken and sinful like we are. We shouldn’t be surprised when they stumble and fall. Certainly let’s pray that God would protect them from the Adversary. But let us not put our hopes for revival in our nation in these good, godly men. Josh isn’t the Rescuer. Tim isn’t the Savior. Jeremy isn’t the Christ. Let us enjoy these good gifts and give glory to the Giver.
8. Prediction: this is a contract year for Josh. He’ll be in pinstripes next year. OK, wishful thinking maybe. But I’d love it.
Update: If you haven’t heard Josh’s testimony, you can watch him tell it below. You really cannot comprehend Josh as a baseball player apart from the gospel.