I love playing and watching both golf and baseball yet I’d be hard pressed to find any commonalities in how these two games are played. I played baseball from ages 5-13, until I realized that you really need to be able to hit the baseball to have any future success in the game. Then in my early 20’s I began picking up golf. Basically in both games you’re swinging a stick at a ball and trying to hit it as far as possible. Yet it didn’t take long to discover that the swinging motions that are skillfully, or in my case clumsily, exerted are fundamentally opposite. The difference between the two swinging motions are subtle but paramount. It’s the difference between keeping your weight forward on your front leg or keeping your weight back on your back leg. Take a look at two of the greatest hitters golf and baseball have ever seen. Tiger Woods on the left, Ken Griffey Jr. on the right.
As I was learning how to hit a golf ball I kept using my “baseball swing” and was missing the golf ball. As I was approaching the tee box my mind knew I was going to be swinging a stick to hit a ball, so it defaulted to the only motion it knew. This is called muscle memory. By keeping my weight on my back leg, instead of moving it forward to my front leg I was essentially pulling myself away from ball I was swinging at. This wrecked havoc on my scorecard as well as the landscape!. For me – I had to stop playing baseball, stop swinging a bat, and teach myself a new swing and create a new muscle memory so I could (more) successfully hit a golf ball. It was amazing how these two sports that I thought had very little to do with each other greatly impacted my ability to play either one well.
In Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus offers one of the most inconvenient, and I’d say overlooked, elements of worship. The element of reconciliation.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (NLT)
It’s easy to give lip service to the idea that we give our whole selves to Jesus yet too often we live as though our spiritual lives and social lives have no connection. When we gather with the church for worship, we are proclaiming our gratitude or need for prior, present, and future reconciliation to God through Christ. All worship truly finds its roots here. Yet, when live our social lives without any efforts to pursue reconciliation (personally, communally, and globally) it is no different than using our best baseball swing to hit a golf ball. Right as we throw our self forward into worship we are simultaneously pulling ourselves away from Christ. Sounds like a pretty serious recipe for a stint on the disabled list…swinging forward while pulling yourself backwards.
We can’t fully move forward in our worship or relationship with Jesus if we aren’t willing to fully move forward in reconciling our relationships with the people we can see, touch, speak to, work with, and share our planet with. Why? Because the Jesus is at work and pursing reconciliation in a might way with the same person(s) I am withholding relational peace from. See, I can walk forward with Jesus as he’s reconciling all people when I’m walking away from people who I need to be reconciled with. They are two opposite motions.
Reconciliation must be at the heart of our worship. This way, the more we prioritize healing broken relationships the sooner reconciliation will become our new relational default during the other 6 1/2 days of our week. We’ll have created a new muscle memory through our relational conditioning, made possible by the Holy Spirit.
So, the time I approach the tee box (worship) and I know there’s something off on my swing (relational conflict), my best bet is to step off the tee box, take a few practice swings (go be reconciled), and step back up to the ball (come back to worship) ready keep my weight on my front leg (Christ as first in all things) all the way through my swing (my act of worship).