I read a story in social media about a motivational speaker (John Scolinos) who spoke to a large convention of baseball coaches. Apparently, he started his talk by asking how wide the home plate is in Little League. The participants answered, “seventeen inches.”
Then he asked how wide it was for the kids in the Babe Ruth league. Same answer: seventeen inches. He asked how wide the plate is for High School students. Same answer: seventeen inches. He moved on to the minor leagues, “How wide is the plate for AAA pitchers and batters?” Same answer: seventeen inches.
He finally focused on big league players and asked, “How wide is the plate in the major leagues?” Same answer: seventeen inches.
He then reflected on what you do as a coach when a kid can’t throw strikes over those seventeen inches. Do you make it 18 inches or maybe 19? Of course the answer was a resounding, no. You do not lower the standard, you raise expectations.
As I thought about that message, I realized there are so many appropriate applications. In our culture, we are constantly bombarded with the idea that when life gets difficult we should lower the threshold for success. So in response, we either compensate, commiserate or complain.
I am not sure that is what Jesus had in mind when he laid out a whole series of non-negotiables in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). He told us to be salt and light in a dark and tasteless world. He made clear that murder, adultery, divorce and retaliation are not in His plan. He urged us to love our enemies and give to the needy. He explained how prayer and fasting set us up to store treasures in heaven. He told us not to worry and to ask for the help we need.
Towards the end of that sermon, Jesus emphasized that narrow is the gate that leads to life and wide is the gate that leads to destruction.
Those instructions are His plan. We can compensate for our failure to acknowledge His plan. We can give each other an excuse to ignore His instructions. We can commiserate with others in our failure and we can (and do) complain a lot.
But bottom line this week, the spiritual and moral standards have not changed. God has set a high bar for His kids. We do not get the luxury of resetting all His spiritual standards to our own liking. His will is His will. Our response is to obey.
Maybe now is a good time for us all to “measure” our own willingness to live obedient lives. Let’s recheck those details in Matthew. Let’s all ruminate a bit on how they apply to us. And remember, home plate is still 17 inches. God’s will is still to be obeyed.