The Gospel According To…The Sandlot

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Series Disclaimer: The writers of this series do not endorse everything found in these movies. Please use discretion on what is beneficial for you or your family to watch. Our hope is to help us look at the movies (and all of life) through the eyes of faith! (Also, Spoiler Alert: if you haven’t seen these movies, we will give away a lot of what happens!)

Haven’t you seen the greatest movie ever made? No?! You’re killin’ me, Smalls!

In my not-so-humble opinion, The Sandlot is the greatest movie of all time. It has everything you want in a great movie: unforgettable one-liners, action-packed chase scenes, summer romance, cute kids, catchy music, and of course…baseball.

But even though The Sandlot is the greatest movie ever made, it’s certainly not the greatest story ever told. That would be God’s Story, the Story of the Bible, the Story of God rescuing the world in the most unlikely way imaginable. That is the greatest story ever told. I believe that all the other stories that resonate with us hold echoes of that greatest Story, the Story of God. That’s part of the reason why we’re doing this blog series about some of the movies we love. We want to learn to see with eyes of faith. We want to watch, read, and hear the stories we love through the lens of the Greatest Story ever told.

For example, The Sandlot.

The Sandlot is the story of Scotty Smalls, a fifth grader who moves to a new town in the summer of 1962. Scotty doesn’t know anybody, so he attempts to make some friends by joining a group of neighborhood boys playing baseball. As soon as he steps onto the field, it’s obvious that Scotty knows nothing about baseball. He looks nothing like a baseball player: dress pants, buttoned-up shirt, fishing hat, and a toy plastic baseball glove.

Scotty walks onto the field while the team is warming up. As he stands there in the outfield, a ball is hit his way. Scotty stumbles while trying to make the catch, whiffing in front of all the kids he hoped to impress. To make matters worse, he doesn’t even know how to throw the ball, so he runs the ball back into the infield and hands it to one of the boys. The other kids are flabbergasted. They start to laugh and make fun of Scotty. It seems like Scotty will never be accepted. His hopes of belonging are crushed.

Just then, the best athlete of the group and the unquestioned leader of the team, Benny Rodriguez, runs out to the outfield to talk to Scotty. He starts to give Scotty some tips on how to throw the baseball. But throwing isn’t Scotty’s only problem. He asks Benny, “How do I catch it?” Benny’s response is timeless, “Just stand there and stick your glove out in the air. I’ll take care of it.”

Sure enough, during the next at-bat, Benny smacks a high fly ball into left field where Scotty waits, eyes close and glove held up high in the sky. Without Scotty moving a muscle, the ball lands right in his glove. Amazed, he makes the throw to the cutoff man with pinpoint accuracy. The other boys are stunned. Scotty has just become part of the team.

We are a lot like Scotty Smalls: clumsy, isolated, unable work our way out of the mess we’ve made. Due to our sin, the Bible says that we were outcasts. But because of Jesus, now we belong. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:12-13, 19, “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household….”

And how does this happen? How are we accepted? How do we “join the team”? Paul gives us the answer in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Scotty Smalls becomes part of the team by doing nothing. When he tries to work his way onto the team, he only makes matters worse. But when Scotty has faith in Benny, Benny does all the work for him! All Scotty has to do is hold his glove up and receive what Benny is doing for him. The same is true for us. We can’t earn our salvation, no matter how “good” we are. The only way we get accepted into the people of God is by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Later in the movie, Scotty makes a big mistake. He tries once again to earn his way into the team’s favor. When the team runs out of baseballs, Scotty goes home and grabs a ball out of his Dad’s room, a ball signed by “some girl named Ruth.” He didn’t realize that “girl” was Babe Ruth!

To make matters worse, the autographed ball gets hit over the fence, where it’s impossible to retrieve. Why is it impossible? Because on the other side of that fence is a menacing monster, The Beast. Rumor has it that The Beast, a massive and ferocious dog, will kill anyone who comes into his territory. It looks like Scotty will be grounded for life when his dad finds out about the missing ball. But, in amazing act of self-sacrifice, Benny jumps the fence and faces The Beast on Scotty’s behalf to retrieve the autographed ball.

Much like Scotty, when we try to earn our acceptance, we only make matters worse. Thankfully, Christ came over the fence on our behalf. He faced the enemy head-on and defeated sin and death in His sacrifice on the cross. Because of that, we have peace with our Father and a community of acceptance here on earth. And how did it happen? By grace through faith.

I think Paul says it best. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by grace through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

You don’t deserve it. You can’t earn it. But congratulations, you’re on the team.