Friday, November 19, 2010

Michael Vick and Second Chances

I am not sure what to think. As a sports fan it seems like every week I am being asked to cheer for a star player who allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman or was convicted of running a brutal killing farm for dogs or some kind of similar criminal misconduct. Michael Vick had one of the greatest games a quarterback ever had last Monday night. He has had several good games since he began filling in for the injured Kevin Kolb. He has made the Philadelphia Eagles a super bowl contender. He is being mentioned as a MVP candidate. He is also a convicted felon and out of prison for less than two years. Last year he saw limited action as a backup to Donovan McNabb. The Eagles were harshly criticized for giving Vick another chance at football so horrendous were the conditions of the dogs found at his dog fighting kennel. Yet, McNabb and Tony Dungy took him under their wings and advocated for another chance. For his part, Vick said all the right things, and has spoken of behalf of the humane society several times. He has owned his actions and called them wrong and been remorseful for what he has done. He served 18 months in a federal pen. What more can he do? There are many people who feel he has not done enough and cannot forgive him. Still, his football play is turning many of his critics back into his fans. Funny how that happens. Same thing happened with Ben Roethlisberger. And Kobe Bryant and ARod and on and on. The playing field becomes the field of redemption. Salvation through sports.

Or politics. We have seen the same scenario there. We are reminded that we need to keep a persons personal life separate from his public life. Political expertise and athletic prowess are what matters. Not how he or she lives their so-called private lives. But just how do we separate the two. Does that reasoning work with your spouse or children or parents. Would it work for a minister?

There have been some high profile cases of ministers where his personal life became an embarrassment to his family and his church. In some cases he stepped down and went through a process of repentance and counseling. In some cases, a group of advisers pronounced him ready to return to public ministry. That seemed to be a reasonable course of action. But that is the church. Not sports or politics.

When Bill Clinton went through his own personal/public sex scandal,he sought out ministers to help him get his moral bearings again. He has gone on to serve in the public sphere especially with the international rebuilding efforts in Haiti.

The Gospel is not for perfect people. We are sinners who stand in the need of grace. Daily. The public spheres of politics and sports play out the drama of redemption for each of us. Even in those spheres there are usually costly consequences for our sinful choices. Forgiveness and redemption, if they come, come at a price. Some people never forget. The path to redemption may be sloppy but it usually includes the steps of repentance, public remorse, penance and wise counsel or mentoring from elders. Who deserves a second chance? Probably none of us. Do we get second chances? Who wants to throw the first stone? That's called grace.