I got to thinking today about the concept of “3 strikes and you’re out”. The obvious correlation is to the game of baseball. I’ve heard parents employ this rule with their children…”I’m going to give you to the count of 3 young man!” We even put this rule to use in our school’s discipline system; from dress code, chewing gum, cell phones, etc. But here’s the kicker. Did you notice that after a batter strikes out, the child is disciplined, and punishment is handed out at school, the individual gets another chance! As long as the game continues, the batter gets to try again. The child and student, hopefully, learn from the discipline and try not to make the same mistake again. I love the concept of grace and forgiveness! It lets you know we’re human. We mess up and make mistakes, yet life is not over. We can, as the saying goes, keep on keeping on! However, in those moments when we “strike out”, we go through momentary emotional pain. It’s difficult. Sometimes, we even feel ashamed.
As the Vice Principal at my school, I get the honor of being the disciplinarian. I call it an honor because I’m given the opportunity to minister to those students, who for a short period of time, are feeling ashamed. Typically on the first notice, I simply communicate with them, remind them of the policies in our handbook, and send them on their way. If we get to the second notice, the conversation becomes more fervid and intense. As they leave my office, they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that policies and procedures are in place for their benefit and for the benefit of those around them. They learn that their actions and words go beyond their nose and affects their community around them. Ultimately, it’s a perfect opportunity to make discipline applicable to their lives. I often remind students of Hebrews 12. A great portion of scripture that defines the true role of discipline in our lives. Consider the following:
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” ~ Hebrews 12:11-15 (ESV)
It’s rare, if ever, that I’ll have a student happy and thankful in the heart of discipline. They are either ashamed, upset, or down right mad (either that they got caught, or mad at themselves for what they’ve done). They’ll even walk out of my office with their head down, and sometimes, in tears. But it’s the moments when the above passage comes to fruition. I love seeing students change because of the discipline they’ve received. They see the benefit of it, and are yielding that fruit of righteousness. We all make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve the abundant grace that our Lord wants to bestow upon us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ~ Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
Ultimately, when I think of “3 strikes”, I think of Peter. Peter was informed that he would deny Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18, 25-27). The amazing thing is, he was informed by Jesus Himself! Jesus looked him straight in the eyes and said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:34). Believing that this man he’d been following and committing his whole life to was the promised Messiah, Peter proudly responded, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (Mark 14:31) Yet within a couple of hours, Peter would be called out by the surrounding crowd, and sure enough, three times Peter swung the bat and three times, he flat-out missed the ball. Even as you read this story in the bible, with each denial, Peter grows more and more incessant. Even to the point of cursing his accusers and fleeing the scene in tears. According to Luke’s depiction, the moment the rooster crows, Jesus turns and looks directly at Peter. I can’t even imagine how Peter must have felt. Here’s what I believe. Rather than looking at Peter with an “I told you so” scowl, I believe there was nothing but grace and love in the eyes of Jesus. He knew Peter was going to deny Him. Even more than that, Jesus knew of the life that was in store for Peter and the ministry he would soon embark on. In my mind, Peter struck out. He was down, but he most certainly was not out!
We are bound to make mistakes. Romans 3:23 assures of this fact. But the trick is to not allow the sin to fester in your life. Imagine if every baseball player who struck out, quit. America’s pastime would be just that, in the past. God’s grace picks us up, restores us, and sets us on a path to continue on in the ministry He has called us. Were there times in Peter’s life in which he remembered his tragic “at bat”? I’m sure there were, but that didn’t stop him from helping establish the church and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. God has a plan for us all. However, I can guarantee you that if you wallow in your sin and self-pity in your moments of discipline, and are not willing to be trained by it, that plan will never see the light of day. Allow God to renew your strength, build you up, make you stronger, and use you for His glorious plan!
Rak Chazak and may the Lord bless you!!