It seems like every day produces a new sports scandal.
Most of us have probably seen the disgusting video of Ray Rice knocking his girlfriend (now, his wife) unconscious in an elevator. And if you’re following the story, you know that the NFL really couldn’t have handled the entire situation any worse than it did.
But that’s just the beginning. There’s Adrian Peterson, who has admitted to using a tree branch to bruise and bloody his 4-year-old son. There’s a huge difference between discipline and abuse, and Peterson crossed WAY over that line.
There are NFL players Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy, both with domestic abuse scandals swirling around them.
And to prove that it’s not just a football problem, it was just announced why Ron Washington, former manager of MLB’s Texas Rangers, resigned without warning earlier this month. He resigned because he had an extramarital affair. He cheated on his wife of 40+ years.
And this is just professional sports. I didn’t even touch on the controversies surrounding many college athletes.
All these revelations have been sobering and saddening, disheartening and disgusting. It really makes you think that Charles Barkley had it right all along: “I’m not a role model.”
So what do we do with all this mess? Quit watching sports? Rant and rave about it on social media? Write a blog post (irony alert!)?
Maybe the best thing for us to do is to take a breath and remember these two truths:
1. Sinful, broken people will always disappoint you.
2. Sinful, broken people are the only kind of people there are.
I’m not giving any of these athletes a pass. They need to be held accountable for their wrongdoing. And if things like infidelity and abuse ever STOP bothering us, then that would reveal a dangerous searing of our conscience. We can NEVER go there.
But at the same time, we need to remember that people will always fall short. They will never be perfect. And if we expect perfection from them, disappointment will never be far behind.
The Apostle Paul summed it up in Romans 3:23. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
ALL have sinned. ALL fall short. That’s true for professional athletes living everyday under intense public scrutiny. And that’s true for you and me, as well.
As followers of Jesus, we’re called to be grace people.
For example, everyone seems to want Ray Rice’s head on a platter. And honestly, I’m no different. When I saw the video, I wanted to beat him senseless. I was furious, and I would have loved to have a shot at him.
However, there are reports that a month after the attack in that elevator, both Ray Rice and his fiancé were baptized.
Is he using that to try to get back into the NFL’s good graces? I have no idea. What I do know is that trying to judge what is in someone’s heart is a dangerous game.
If Ray Rice has truly surrendered to Jesus, then he is forgiven of all his sin…including the one captured on that horrible video. If Jesus can’t forgive Ray Rice, then He can’t forgive you or me, either. Remember, ALL have sinned. ALL fall short of the glory of God.
Bottom line…we need to recognize the folly of celebrity obsession. Our culture thrives on building celebrities up to the point of pseudo-worship, and then acting as the judge, jury, and executioner when they fail.
Instead of following the foolishness of our culture, we would be wise to remember that people will always fall short and fail. And we would be even wiser to trust in the One who never will.
Mike Edmisten is Senior Pastor at Connect Christian Church.