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Sermon illustrations

Excuses

Excuses in Sports

Just like in politics, we can offer some ridiculous excuses. Some of my favorite examples are from sports, like in the World Series, when legendary pitcher Roger Clemens actually picked up a piece of a bat and threw it at a base runner he’d had a previous incident with. He said it was all an accident, because—in spite of a lifetime of experience—he confused a bat with a ball. (Note to Roger: You’re not supposed to throw the ball at runners either, but whatever.)

A pro cyclist was busted for banned-substance use after he won a race in Germany. He said it wasn’t his fault. He’d ingested the stimulant on accident because he ate too much of his father-in-law’s pigeon pie, and the pie was made from racing pigeons that had been drugged. (Wait, people eat pigeon pies?) Here’s a personal favorite of mine: North Korea lost in the Women’s World Cup in 2011, and the coach said there was a good reason. After all, the players were tired after an earlier practice match, when each and every one had been struck by lightning.

Brent Hansen, The Truth about Us: The Very Good News about How Very Bad We Are, Baker Publishing Group.

Insulting My Intelligence

Arnold “Red” Auerbach was one of the winningest coaches in NBA history. He won 9 championships as coach of the Boston Celtics and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1965 and NBA Executive Coach of the Year in 1980. One night while on the road with the Celtics, Auerbach ran into 3 of his players, each traveling with a beautiful woman in tow.

This was against team rules, and so one of the players, trying to get out of trouble, introduced one of the women as his “cousin.” Not wanting to cause a stir, Auerbach nodded without raising a fuss. But then the player decided to double-down on his deceit saying, “We were just on our way to church.” Sharing the story on a later occasion, Auerbach commented, ““I couldn’t take that. I fined him twenty-five dollars for insulting my intelligence.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Same Old Baloney

Two construction workers had taken a lunch break and opened up their lunch boxes. One of them looked inside his box and said, “Not baloney again! I can’t believe it. I hate baloney. This is the third time this week I’ve had baloney. I can’t stand baloney!”

The other one said, “Why don’t you just ask your wife to make you something different?”

He replied, “I don’t have a wife. I made these myself.”  The fact is, most of the baloney in our lives we put there ourselves. If we ever want life to be any different from the same old baloney we keep serving ourselves, then we must break out of doing the routine.

Kent Crockett, The 911 Handbook.

The Two Cheeks Excuse

Consider an interview a Christian leader had with a reporter in 2018. The reporter asked why so many Christians were willing to support political candidates who revel in disobeying Jesus’ teachings. “I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully,” the Christian leader replied. “What happened to turning the other cheek?” the reporter asked, referring to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount about non-retaliation.

“You know, you only have two cheeks,” the Christian replied. Still, the Christian leader’s point is revealing. He apparently thinks Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are to be followed up to a point. Once important things are at risk, like political power, it’s okay to ignore Jesus’ commands. I call this the “Only Two Cheeks” excuse, and it’s one I’ve heard a lot.

Skye Jethani, What If Jesus Was Serious?: A Visual Guide to the Teachings of Jesus We Love to Ignore, Moody, 2020.

See also Illustrations on Accountability