Coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State liked to inspire his teams with parables. According to Tennessee Titans center Kevin Long, who played under Bowden, one of Bowden’s favorite stories centered on his playing days in college baseball. Bowden had never hit a home run until one day he hit one down the right-field line, into the corner. Seizing the opportunity he rounds first, and glances over to the third-base coach. He turned at second, was halfway to third, and the coach was still waving him on. Coming down the stretch with the focus and force of an Olympic sprinter, Bowden hits home plate. He had his first home run. There were high fives all round from his fellow teammates. But in the midst of the celebrations, the pitcher took the ball, threw it to the first baseman, and the umpire called him out. Retelling the story Coach Bowden reminds his players: “If you don’t take care of first base, it doesn’t matter what you do.”
As this story reminds us, some things must be done first before other things can be done at all. In life as in baseball, first base first, is an important principle. Some things give substance, significance, and success to everything else. Love patterned after Christ is one of those things. According to Paul in First Corinthians thirteen, love for God and others is a first base thing in the Christian life (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Without it nothing else really matters. To make his point Paul stretches a point. Paul wants us to imagine a man who has the tongue of an orator, the mind of a scholar, the spirit of a pioneer, and the heart of a martyr. A man who is John Chrysostom, Jonathan Edwards, George Mueller, and Jim Elliott rolled into one. A spiritual super man we might say. Yet, Paul tells us that this man and his ministry apart from the practice of love is a big fat zero. Without love gilding everything he does, he is nothing, and achieves nothing.
According to the Bible, love patterned after Jesus Christ, unwarranted, costly, selfless, and enduring, is central to all that we are and do. To love is to live; to love not is to live not (1 John 3:14). Love must define our being, and direct our doing. Why? First, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is not a quality God possesses; it is the essence of his being. Second, love for God is the first and greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34). The sum and summit of Christian duty is love for God. Third, love for others is the touchstone of Christian discipleship (John 13:34-35). Fourth, love is the crowning virtue of Christian character (Gal. 5:22). Love is the queen of all Christian graces. Peace is love at rest. Goodness is love in action. Temperance is love in harness. Skevington Wood writes: “Where love is present it matters not what is absent, where love is absent it matters not what is present” (Prov. 15:17). Before you take one more step today why not stop, and make sure that you are taking care of this first base in the Christian life!