Jackie Robinson, a Man of Faith and Courage
There is a new movie out on DVD called “42.” It tells the remarkable story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball. I have not yet seen the movie, but I’ve heard it is very inspiring.
Before Robinson was hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers, he met with Branch Rickey, their General Manager. Rickey wanted to know if Robinson was the right man to break baseball’s color barrier. “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey told Robinson. Then Rickey opened up a book called, “Life of Christ,” by Giovanni Papini. He read the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew to the promising athlete: “If anyone slaps you on the right check, turn to them the other cheek also.”
These words were familiar to Robinson because of the influence of his mother, who took him to church when he was a child. Later, when Robinson was a teenager he started veering away from the faith and getting into trouble. Fortunately, he was taken under wing by Rev. Karl Downs, the pastor of Scott United Methodist Church in Pasadena. He encouraged young Jackie and in time became a father figure to him. Not only did Robinson start growing in his faith, he even began teaching Sunday School at the church.
As Branch Rickey predicted, Robinson did indeed faced jeering crowds in almost every stadium. His faith in Christ helped him endure the constant insults and threats. According to Eric Metaxas, author of “Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness,” Robinson was a remarkably courageous and devout Christian. During those early turbulent years, he often prayed for strength and wisdom.
On May 13, 1947, Cincinnati fans were giving Robinson a particularly tough time as the Dodgers took the field in the bottom of the first. The threats, racial taunts and hatred coming from the stands was perhaps the worst he had ever faced. As Jackie stood uncomfortably at first base, Pee Wee Reese quickly left his position at shortstop and went over to Robinson. Reese put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that Reese’s arm around his shoulder saved his career.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “Let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 3:13 states: “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins’ deceitfulness.” God wants us to encourage each other on a daily basis. There are many ways to do this: a prayer, a warm greeting, a hug, a phone call, an encouraging card or note, an invitation to lunch or dinner. You can probably think of even more ways to encourage others.
Will you ask the Lord who you should encourage today? When we do these acts of love, Jesus is pleased and He takes it personally. As our Lord said, “…to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you were doing it unto Me. (Matthew 25:40)