By Bob Hiller –
Dan Patrick had a pretty fascinating interview with the great Lenny Dykstra this past week. Dykstra was truly one of the great ball players back in the 1990s with the Philadelphia Phillies. Well, as he told Patrick, he “medicated” himself to being one of the great ball players. Dykstra is quite open about his steroid use in the ‘90s and really quite good at normalizing it. Dropping every “excuse-to-sin” cliché in the book, Dykstra demonstrated how “using” was standard. “The only [players] who weren’t using were stupid, unless they hate money.” There’s the old, “everyone else was doing it” line. “As weird as it may sound, I did it for the right reason, for my family and for my ability to stay on the field, because I am not physically built to withstand the 160 game season.” Yes, of course, we all know that “the ends justify the means,” and his family’s well-being is a worthy end, isn’t it?
My favorite excuse for Dykstra’s cheating, however, I find to be rather insightful, “What are you going to do, look at the guy sitting next to you, built like a Greek statue and go home and get a real job?” In other words, are you going to do the hard work of getting into equally good shape, dedicate your time to honing your skills, and scrap like crazy to achieve success? Or are you going to cut corners and cheat to get ahead? Are you willing to admit you are inferior, walk away with integrity, and earn your money honestly? Are you going to lie to everyone, contribute to a corrupt culture, and make a name for yourself? Will patient dedication or the impatient, easy road define your activity?
Dykstra speaks of the impatient road as the only option. And it may have been for the sort of success he desired. The only problem is that he compromised both his own integrity as well as the integrity of the game. He didn’t have the time nor the patience to develop into a player that could look like the Greek statue in the on-deck circle, so he took the easy route. Steroid produced quick results, a better batting average, and quick success. And since success is the highest value in our culture, steroid use was a justifiable sin.
Dykstra’s ethical attitude should come as no surprise to us. Our whole society is built on impatience and the “Tyranny of the Now.” “I want it all, and I want it now,” Freddy Mercury sang. We want success, we want happiness, and we want notoriety, and we want it now.
But as obvious as this is with things like sexual gratification (why do the hard work of romancing your bride when you can just get-off watching porn?) or gossip (why wait for the truth to come to light when I can ruin my adversary’s reputation now?), the church also tends to find itself bowing to the “Tyranny of the Now.” The culture is moving away from our moral compass, so instead of finding ways to creatively and prayerfully create loving alternatives to the culture’s demonic ideas, we take up the political power tools of the devil and fight for our rights to save our country now! A youth is struggling with homosexuality, but instead of telling them the truth, that this will be a battle their whole life that Christ will love them through it and we will stand by them in it, we send them off to gay camp to fix their sins immediately. Instead of doing the hard work of teaching the richness of a Biblically strong liturgy that will strengthen the roots of the Gospel in our hearts, we choose worship that feels good now and scratches that immediate itch.
Though using such steroids will produce immediate success, it will ruin the game long term. Political victories for the church may improve the morals in our society on the surface but do little for the furthering of the Gospel when someone on the other political team sees your church as nothing more than an advocate for this or that party. Gay camp doesn’t work. Why don’t we have gossip camp? It misunderstands the nature of sin and, frankly, of love altogether. There is no quick fix for sin, and love doesn’t cease when the struggle remains. And finally, worship shaped by what is popular now is, by nature, fleeting and does little to establish your faith for the long haul.
I was struck by a verse in 1 Peter (2:23) tonight that offers a remarkable alternative to the Tyranny of the Now. In speaking of Jesus’s Passion, Peter states, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus, when on trial before Pilate, did not call down armies of angels to correct the evils of the world. When the devil offered Jesus authority over the whole world, minus the cross, Jesus drove Satan off with the Word and prepared himself to suffer patiently. He could have kicked out the disciples every time they said something stupid or faithless, but instead, he taught them patiently and pointed them to his death and resurrection. He could remove you from the church every time you sin, but instead, he gives you His body and blood in bread and wine to patiently forgive you yet again! His patience is not to be taken lightly but gives opportunity to repent and believe. In the end, He will make all things right.
His patience and mercy is what drives the attitude of the church. We don’t need to send task forces to take up political stances in Washington and demand that our rights be heard; we simply need to find ways to love our neighbors in our midst. We don’t need to fear the youth who comes terrified because God won’t take away his gay attraction; we simply need to stand by him, pray with him, and never stop when he doesn’t change to our liking. We don’t need to change our worship services to make them more exciting; we simply need to make sure they pass on the same faith that has been handed down throughout the generations.
Church, stay off the steroids. There is no hurry! We need not compromise our integrity nor our love. The Tyranny of the Now is a lie from the devil. You can entrust yourself to the same Father that raised Jesus up from the dead. The promise of Easter drove Jesus to suffer patiently and faithfully. Don’t tire of doing good, preaching Christ, and loving your neighbor. God will make things right. Just wait and see!