Baseball slugger Willie McCovey died last year. I felt sad when I heard the news, even though he played against my favorite team. Tall and lanky, with a smooth left-handed batting style, McCovey (nicknamed “Stretch”) played first base for the San Francisco Giants. One humid summer night when I was a boy, our family went to Crosley Field to watch our beloved Cincinnati Reds play the Giants, and Willie McCovey came to bat with the bases loaded. Extending his long arms in a powerful swing, he clubbed a grand slam home run. From our vantage point on the third base side of the field, my brothers and I had an unobstructed view of the arc of the ball. I had never seen anyone hit a baseball like that. It soared majestically into the night sky and finally landed in the right field seats. McCovey’s grand slam cost the Reds the game, but on that night I didn’t mind. His athletic skill remains etched in my memory to this day.
The Reds had a power hitter of their own named Frank Robinson who slammed 33 home runs in 1965, but in December of that year the Reds traded Robinson (labeling him “an old 30”) to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Milt Pappas and two other players. In Robinson’s first year with the Orioles, he led them to a World Series championship and won the American League Triple Crown. He’s now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Robinson-for-Pappas deal is considered one of the worst trades in baseball history, ranking alongside the decision of the Boston Red Sox to sell Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees in 1919. In his first year with the Yankees, Ruth stroked 54 home runs, while the entire Red Sox team only hit 22. Ruth led the Yankees to four world championships, and the Red Sox didn’t win the World Series again until 2004.
Forfeiture of the Soul
In the realm of the soul, bad trades happen all the time. Adam and Eve exchanged fellowship with God for the fruit of sin. Esau gave up his birthright in exchange for a pot of lentil stew. The Israelites forfeited their homeland by pursuing false gods (2 Kings 17:7-23). Judas traded proximity to Jesus for silver and despair. Men and women traded truth for lies, replaced God’s glory with idols, and exchanged natural relations for unnatural sexual behaviors (Romans 1:21-27).
Jesus referenced the worst trade of all when he asked, “What can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:37). What other priority could possibly be worth forfeiture of the soul? Why would anyone want to spend even a moment alienated from God?
We all have made bad trades and damaged our souls by wandering down the pathway of rebellion. There is a remedy, and it involves a trade as well, but this one is positive for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the cross, the righteousness of Jesus Christ was exchanged for our sin. Through Christ, we exchange darkness for light, lies for truth, death for life, despair for hope, isolation for togetherness, chaos for peace, Hell for Heaven. Why would anyone ever trade away such blessings given by the hand of God?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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