I’ll be honest, I write a lot about extending grace to others and how everyone is worthy of a second chance……….. but I’ve not always practiced what I preach.
Specifically I’ll reference Michael Vick. Yes, THAT Michael Vick, the now quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. THAT Michael Vick who was convicted on dog fighting charges and sentenced to prison, Yes, THAT Michael Vick.
Why does this person give me such heartache you ask? I’m an Atlanta Falcons fan.
Yes I freely admit it, I’m a dirty bird fan and have been one for years. I’ve still got the 1998 NFC Championship bumper sticker on my office bulletin board and I once got a waiver from my local FOX station here in Maine so I could get the Atlanta Fox feed on my satellite TV instead and by doing so get the Falcon’s games from the Atlanta TV market. So to say that I have some history with #7 is an understatement. Many a time when Vick played for the Falcons I could be heard saying that history will remember him as the greatest QB to play the game. I even tried to talk my wife into getting me a #7 jersey for Christmas. I defended his multimillion dollar salary to anyone who would listen. I was not just a diehard Falcons fan, I was a Vick apologist.
Then came the downfall.
Michael Vick was convicted of dog fighting, a crime many of us have to admit we had hardly ever heard about before. Vick was not only convicted but lost his endorsement deals, lost his contract with the Falcons, and ultimately was sent to federal prison for 18 months. And most of us Falcons fans mentally shunned him and treated his name like some sports version of Lord Valdemort – the “he-who-must-not-be-named” forevermore.
Then came part two of the story. Vick was released from prison and re-entered the NFL as basically a third string backup QB and ended up last year becoming the starter for Philadelphia. On tuesday Vick signed a 6-year, $100 Million dollar contact with the Eaglesas the teams starting QB. To say Vick is back is an understatement.
I confess, when I heard the news this week of Vick’s new contract my first reaction was not one of grace. I admit I’ve done my share of Vick bashing in the last couple of years, including the now famous (or infamous) “lock up your beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” rant. So why did I care so much if Vick played again in the NFL and signed a contract that makes him one of the highest paid QB’s in the NFL currently. When I asked myself that I really didn’t have a good answer, I simply managed a weak “it’s not fair”.
What’s not fair? Fair is a playground word.
Was I more upset that an admittedly talented athlete has managed to rebuild his career with another team other than my own, or, was I still just pissed off that someone I’d admired had disappointed me. I think we know the real answer.
If being disappointed is the yardstick against which second (and even third or better yet hundredth) chances are measured than I’d better get down off my pedestal before I fall and hurt myself. I’ve certainly disappointed people in the course of my life and been disappointed by others as well. The beauty of a second chance is that it is just that – a fresh new chance to start anew. The Mulligan, the proverbial “do over” from when we were kids. How many times in my life have I asked for, and been given that chance to re-do? Yet I dare to sit and judge and even begrudge someone their opportunity?
I am so thankful that God does not use a yardstick to measure our worth of second chances, nor does He have a limit on how many we get or when we can use them. David wrote in Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our sins from us” (Bible in Basic English). The meaning is very clear, just as the east and west can never meet, they are always apart from each other, so too are we removed from our sin and what should be the punishment because of the grace of God. Another translation says “as far as the east is from the west – that is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself” (God’s Word Translation). Not only does God give us that Mulligan of a second chance, he treats us as if we never even needed it in the first place. If only we could do the same to others.
Lord, help me continue to learn to consistently do that for others, including Michael Vick.