Thanks to the careful upbringing of my father, I have grown up a big baseball fan. A few weeks ago I was in Anaheim with my family and my girlfriend at an Angels game, and just last night I stayed up with my dad into the eleventh inning to watch the Boston Red Sox pull out a stressful win over the New York Yankees. The baseball world has been abuzz as of late about this supposed Biogenesis scandal, where certain players have been suspected of taking part in an anti-aging clinic in South Florida that involved certain performance-enhancing drugs. Today, we found out about the first suspension from this scandal: Ryan Braun, an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, has been suspended for the rest of the season because of his link with this clinic.
This is not the first time that Braun has been in the middle of a doping scandal. About a year and a half ago he was reported to have tested positive for elevated testosterone in one of his blood samples. He steadfastly maintained his innocence and did everything he could to avoid conviction and suspension, including going after the messenger who delivered said blood sample. Everyone assumed that he was clean at that time, though he got off that conviction only on a technicality. Now, with the announcement of his suspension (as well as his choice not to contest said suspension), all of what we previously thought about Braun has come under severe scrutiny. Certain baseball analysts are already willing to say that he must have been lying the last time he was suspected of this.
The problem for Braun now is this: how will he rectify these two instances? He has now said that he will face the consequences for his actions that he previously had denied. He has put himself -- to use a baseball term -- in quite a pickle.
There's a lot that can be learned from this, and I want to focus on the integrity aspect of this charge. Ryan Braun's integrity has greatly diminished because of this. It will be hard for baseball, its fans, and especially fans in Milwaukee, to trust him for a long time. For Braun, much of what he had tried to build up came crashing down around him. The problem is that he tried to build on his own work and his own foundation. That foundation has now been tested, and shown only to be sand; and as we know from Jesus in Luke 6, "immediately [that foundation] fell, and the ruin of that house was great" (Luke 6:49).
Many wiser, much smarter men than me have shown that integrity finds its root in the word integer, which means to be one or whole. In other words, what you say lines up with what you do. This is critically important for the Christian, because if our integrity is tarnished, then our witness to the world on behalf of Christ is tarnished as well. Our integrity also builds trust for us among our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and trust is a very hard thing to win back if it is lost. Ryan Braun is going to have to earn the MLB's trust back now that he has admitted to this doping scandal.
I think this incident can be a wake-up call for the Christian community, even though it did not happen within Christian confines (as it were). As believers and adopted children of our heavenly Father, we are held to a higher standard than the world. We are not to be characterized by the things that characterize this world -- to borrow the phrase, we ought to be "in the world but not of it." Let us run the race before us with new vigor, seeking to honor our Lord through both our words and our actions.
A simple servant of the Master.