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Kill the Umpire!

"From the benches, black with people, there went a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
‘Kill him! Kill the umpire!’ shouted someone on the stand.
And it’s likely they’d  have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.”

Baseball has been called the national pastime, and it has amply demonstrated its ability to grab the attention and passions of its spectators. I enjoy the game. While I am an avid Cubs fan, I have greatly enjoyed watching my son play at the Little League level.

We have all heard of the perennial problems with the behavior of parents at Little League games. I am happy to report, that I saw little of those problems this year. However, those stereotypical problems are not urban legends. In past years I have witnessed and experienced those who fit these stereotypes. A few years ago at the Peanut League level, I had the unparalleled pleasure of being called a “jerk” by the father of someone on the opposing team, because he imagined that I had intentionally interfered with the play in my feeble coaching efforts at third.

I have also had the opportunity to sit in the stands at a Pony League game and hear parents rail on the umpire. Oh, sure, we have all reacted negatively to the bad calls inevitably made by umpires, but some of these parents are like pit bulls and won't let go even several innings later. Such loose-lipped parents got me to thinking and analyzing. If this is our treatment of an authority figure that we can see, then no wonder people question God, who they cannot see (1 John 4:20).

People are not hesitant to challenge and question authority. At the Pony League game one man literally had a comment about every pitch. If the call was negative for his team, then he had only bad things to say about the umpire. Often there was a chorus of mothers agreeing with him. It is apparent that for some people the umpire is not the object of their respect, but someone to vent on when things don't go well.

I can’t help but believe that many see God the same way. They sit in the stands of life constantly questioning Him and railing on Him, when things don’t go the way they think they should. Recall when King David moved the Ark of the Covenant in an unlawful way, and Uzzah ended up dying for touching the Ark in an attempt to steady it (2Samuel 6:6-8). David was angry with God, when he should have been angry with himself.

Isn't it interesting how the umpire, who makes possible an orderly and far more enjoyable level of play, becomes the object of our scorn rather than the object of our appreciation? It is amusing how we want him there behind the plate, but then think we have a clearer view of the game from our seat in the stands. Unlike human umpires, God is never out of position. He always makes the right call. Still, we sit in our seats with our limited view and question the One who can see it all.

Why do people act this way at a game or in life? Because of pride and prejudice. It is pride that keeps many from being willing to submit to any authority, let alone the authority of the unseen God. God warns that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

Prejudice enables people to find fault with others without applying the same standard to them selves (Romans 2:1-11; James 2:8-11). We want a wide strike zone when we’re pitching and a narrow one when we’re batting, and we complain if it’s any other way.

Life is not a game, but some certainly approach it that way. How easy it is to lose our perspective of what is most important. “Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl. 12:13)