One of professional baseball’s great pitchers is Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With over 2900 career strikeouts, Kershaw has been embarrassing opposing hitters for sixteen seasons . What makes him a remarkable player is his arsenal of curve-oriented throwing techniques, which shift the speed and trajectory of the ball in ways that make his pitches wildly curved as they approach the plate. These curves can be explained by the Magnus effect: a lift force that acts on a spinning object, pivoting the final trajectory in ways that would not occur if the object were not spinning . The strength of the Magnus effect alters with the speed of rotation, allowing longer airtime, wider curves, and shifts that could not be created without the spinning motion. An athlete may choose to redirect the trajectory of a ball by adjusting the rotational spin, formulating each move to best aid them in the game.
In some ways, a person’s life acts like a flying ball with a malleable, personalized trajectory. Like the curve in Kershaw’s pitch, nobody can see the final destination or the path in which they will travel. To some degree, the person has control over their path, like choosing to eat healthy foods to create longevity. Simultaneously, the shifts are also out of their control and influenced by the people around them. Perhaps a teacher shares an intellectual quote that strikes a chord in a struggling student’s heart, or a trusted coach showcases courage in a time of fear. Third-party individuals add to the spin of the ball, redirecting the path and final destination of a person in ways never planned. An act of love can inspire curiosity; kindness produces a desire for wisdom; and patience is a catalyst for gratitude. Individuals constantly have the opportunity to reveal goodness through their actions, which can shift the trajectory of others in beautiful and subtle ways.
Yet simply having the desire to be good fails to define ways to positively influence others. As people actively search for opportunities to reveal goodness, their actions may clash with one another. For example, living by the “Golden Rule” encourages people to treat others as they would want to be treated . However, where it falls short is when one person’s desire contradicts the desire of others. How then do people provide a positive influence on others when the foundational definitions of virtue shift between individuals? The definitions of loving and honoring others in life-giving ways become unclear as moral ambiguity and preferences blur the lines. Think of a friend who gives false affirmation as an act of supposed love. Perhaps a teacher compliments faulty work to give encouragement. In the political sphere, legislatures attempt justice in situations that are unclear, ambiguous, and compromised. It is inherently good to love someone, but is it good to deliver that love cloaked in half-truths? Without a foundation for virtuous living, communities often become the blind leading the blind. If people are not careful, they can stumble away from truth-based actions without even noticing.
In my own life, I have found that faith in Christ provides a full framework for the love-based influence that people crave to share with others. As written in Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”. A life worth living is filled with moments that mirror those of Jesus. His life reveals the foundational virtues that Christians are called to emulate. The Apostle Paul gave one example of how to respond to Jesus’ life, saying, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”. Christians are called to demonstrate foundational virtues in response to the love that God has shown us. Yet included in this calling must be the desire to do good. If people choose to live without actions that reflect their response to the goodness of God, then beauty remains hidden. Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead . As every individual must decide to “be a good person,” so must Christians decide to live with Christ-likeness, placing God at the center of all of their actions. Only then can Christians live in a way that reveals Christ, guided by a framework that is built on the love, grace, and forgiveness that Christ has given to us.
Every action presents an opportunity to positively influence one another. The love that people choose to show is good, and this is a way of living that is not exclusive to just Christians. In general, there should be no surprise when we see goodness and love in all people because we are made in the image of God . However, what Christianity explains is “why” people should care for others. Christians are called to demonstrate what Christ has given them through their interactions with others. As Jesus proclaimed, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”. The love that Christians choose to give is not based on what each individual deems best but on the eternal love that Jesus graciously gives to everyone. So as Christians build relationships with others, there is joy in knowing that each friendship is built from a pure love that seeks goodness in every interaction. What Christ provides is both the framework to magnify beauty and the foundation for the positive virtues that people are responsible for sharing with others.
As people go about their daily lives, there are boundless possibilities to create goodness. A smile can become infectious and be passed around a room full of people. A simple wave across the street shows acknowledgment and can kindle a friendship. An act of service can spark an appreciation for generosity in the recipient’s heart. These interactions are like a blank canvas, with each moment acting as a brushstroke of color against the empty space. As a person pours kindness, patience, and love into their actions, both the artist and recipient blossom into a masterpiece. What adds to the art is a frame to hold it all together—one that enriches the beauty of the art while providing it with a sturdy and safe space to stand. What Christianity provides are the foundational virtues that accentuate the beauty created by the interactions of others. Christ reveals how we ought to love one another through the pure, eternal love that He graciously gives to us.
Ty Anders Fong, Contributor
Ty Anders is a second-year student from Mill Valley, CA studying economics at Vanderbilt.
- “Clayton Kershaw Stats, Fantasy & News.” MLB.com. Accessed August 23, 2023. https://www.mlb.com/player/clayton-kershaw-477132.
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Magnus effect.” Encyclopedia Britannica, February 6, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/science/Magnus-effect.
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Golden Rule.” Encyclopedia Britannica, June 26, 2023. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Golden-Rule.
- Philippians 1:27 ESV
- Ephesians 4:32 ESV
- James 2:26 ESV
- Genesis 1:27 ESV
- John 12:34 ESV