Jackie Robinson carried a chip on his shoulder from the moment he set foot in a baseball stadium until the time he left. Every game, he was greeted by jeering crowds and vicious abuse from opposing teams. Bean balls were hurled at him; players intentionally spiked him with their cleats; epithets were directed at him; others spit on him; several of his own teammates signed a petition stating their refusal to take the field with him. Jackie did not endure this treatment for his lack of ability. He suffered on account of the shade of his skin. Worst of all, there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

The chip on Jackie’s shoulder soon became a boulder which threatened to crush him beneath its weight. During one game in which he committed an error, the fans seized the opportunity to rub it in his face, using vicious taunts and insults to remind him that he was not welcome on the field. Jackie didn’t think he could take any more abuse. As the verbal attack continued, the fate of his career lay in the balance. Then Pee Wee Reese, the captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, came over, put his hand on Jackie’s shoulder, and stared at the hecklers. The crowd grew quiet. That hand on Jackie Robinson’s shoulder saved his career — and paved the way for the universal acceptance of African-Americans in Major League Baseball.

That’s what an encourager does. This person doesn’t look at the limitations imposed by someone else’s skin shade, cultural background, nationality, physical handicap, place of residence or employment, or social status. The encourager shows grace and meets them on their level. He expresses his solidarity by standing beside them (and even bearing their reproach) when they need him or her the most. That’s grace on base, and that’s the way every member of the Body of Christ should relate to others.

Do you know someone in your church who needs encouragement? Are you willing to be an encourager who is unashamed to stand beside them with an arm on their shoulder, challenging them not to give up? Remember, someday you will be the one in need of encouragement. Find a way to demonstrate grace on base and treat them the way you would like to be treated in the same situation. Try it today.

Devotional by Pastor Jim Scudder, Jr.