When is Amazing Grace Not Amazing? – 2 Corinthians 9:15

The NFL star that lost his shine, Michael Vick, was serving a 23-month prison sentence for bankrolling a dogfighting operation. He was once one of the highest paid players in the NFL as the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, but in July 2008 he filed for bankruptcy, claiming $16 million in assets and $20 million in debts. He was in a court hearing to evaluate his plan to emerge from financial ruin, when he said, “I can’t live like the old Mike Vick. I was very immature. I did a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do.” He said he knows he committed a “heinous” act that was very irresponsible, but could convict Vick be conning us?

In prison he has been working for 12 cents an hour as a janitor. He is hoping for home confinement by late May 2009 in eastern Virginia where he will have a $10-an-hour job with a commercial construction company. He agreed to pay $6.5 million back to the Atlanta Falcons. That could take a while, but he hopes to return to the NFL by September 2009.

Here’s the question: Would you let him back in? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will make that decision, along with team owners and coaches. The Falcons don’t want him. Others might, at least according to his agent Joel Segal. But, what would you require of Vick? A spokesman for the construction company offering him a job in Virginia said, “I believe all of us make mistakes, and once you’ve fulfilled your commitment and paid the price, you should be given a second chance.”

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Phillip Yancey wrote that when we receive God’s grace, we think it is amazing. But, when we are asked to extend that same grace and mercy to those who have harmed us, it is offensive and scandalous. So, our answer to the question might depend on whether Vick and his dogfighting operation hurt us or a dog that belonged to us, or how we feel about all dogs. There are lots of opinions about how heinous his crime was. Some would require 5 years of “clean living.” Others might never let him back into the NFL or into their neighborhoods, and certainly not into their churches.

I am personally very glad that God has a different view. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Elsewhere when Paul was reaching for words about such grace, he wrote, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15) He was writing, of course, about the gift of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. That gift really is beyond words. Inexpressible! Beyond our capacity to understand and to describe, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Vick needs it, but no more than anyone who reads this message. You and I need it no less than the worst criminal. God’s love can welcome any and all sinners into His arms, because of Jesus, and that is far better than fame and fortune in the NFL or any courtroom!

Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey.  All rights reserved.

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