Though most don’t recognize the name, there are some who hear “Steve Bartman” and are flooded with rage. During a playoff game in 2003, this Chicago Cubs fan interfered with game-play in a way that may or may not have impacted the outcome of the game. As a foul ball was headed his way, Steve reached out and intercepted it from Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, ensuring that the batter would not be called “out” . That batter, Luis Castillo, then made it on-base, the game progressed, and Steve’s team – who had been winning until his fateful game-interruption – lost in the end.
The team is ultimately responsible for the loss. If the rules allowed his catch, he cannot be blamed. It was the Cubs’ game to lose. However, the fanbase disagreed and many in the city made life difficult for Bartman, as it had been over 100 years since their home team won this title. There was a lot riding on this loss. The people needed a scapegoat. They needed a reason to believe that their team was cheated and a person to place the blame.
This moment in recent history displays two truths:
1) this broken world necessarily leads people to believe that there are wrongs which must be satisfied, and…
2) … broken humanity has an overwhelming tendency to seek this “payment” from places that can’t undo the damage that has been done.
Poor Steve Bartman was on the receiving end of this treatment on a national scale, but all of us recognize it to a degree. All of us have received blame for something or other, whether it was our fault or not. All of us have also held grudges or withheld forgiveness when someone has hurt us because trust has been lost. From large scale incidents to small-scale grievances, our pain trains us to look outwards for someone to make up for it all.
That was baked into our humanity, by the way. We can choose to believe that humanity learned this behavior in order to protect our societies from “bad-eggs” that may bring harm to our community.
I, however, choose an interpretation of the Scriptures which states that God created mankind in His image and, at the fall and the introduction of sin into the world, were trained that restitution must be made. The sacrificial Law which followed, as passed down to Israel, gave a framework for the animal sacrificial system which taught, quite literally, the necessity of a scapegoat.
Ever since these events, it would be common knowledge that humanity wasn’t perfect and needed some missing element to make up for our problems. Despite the fact that they are our sins, we look outside of ourselves for the fix. This acknowledges our inability to fix ourselves, but it most often places that responsibility on others who are just as broken (Romans 14:10).
However, the beautiful thing is that God already has a system in full-swing to address these problems. We, in our imperfection, make insufficient sacrifices (Romans 3:23), but Jesus Christ who was the Son of God, lived a perfect life (1 Peter 2:22) and died a sacrificial death to save our souls from judgment (John 3:16). When we sense injustice on a grand scale or that there are wrongs which must be atoned for, Jesus the Messiah steps into that role, claims the title of “scapegoat” (Revelation 13:8), and carries our sins as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). Have you experienced this truth? Do you know the One who promises to make you whole? Don’t lash out at the “Steve Bartmans” in your world when there is One who can actually undo the wrongs that you have caused or experienced.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff