by Tim Hall
Should transgressors be granted a second chance?
One of the big stories in sports is the release of Michael Vick. Vick, a sensational quarterback with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, was released Wednesday from federal prison. He spent 19 months in confinement after pleading guilty to charges of financing a dogfighting operation.
Two more months of house arrest must be served, and he’ll work during that time as a common laborer on a construction job. The $10 per hour that he’ll earn is in itself a rebuke to a man who made millions in professional sports.
The question many are asking is “Now what?” Will Vick return to playing professional football? Will any team want to run the risk of a public relations nightmare? All agree that Vick will have served his time, but some feel that’s not enough. A crime as heinous as his should bring consequences that will last the rest of his life.
This sports page drama reminds us of the amazing grace God has offered to all. All who live to the age of accountability (i.e. old enough to know right from wrong) eventually transgress the laws of God. What are the penalties for such lawlessness? Paul states it simply: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NKJV). What Paul meant was spiritual death, separation from God, a death more horrible than mere physical death. Every one of us are deserving of that penalty (Romans 3:23).
Following Jesus’ death, forgiveness of sins was made possible. Paul himself is an extreme example, guilty of persecuting and even killing followers of Jesus. But even an enemy of Christ with a record like that was offered mercy: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Paul would later declare that his example furnished “a pattern to those who are going to believe on [Jesus] for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16).
Yes, God can aptly be described as a God of second chances. There are numerous examples of his grace and mercy found in the scriptures.
People don’t always imitate God. We may find it far more difficult to gain forgiveness from people. We may bear the consequences of our mistakes for a long time, if not for the rest of our lives. That knowledge should make us careful in our decisions and behaviors, and Michael Vick’s example reinforces that.
God, however, is forever a God of mercy. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11,12).
Here’s good news for all who have made a mess of their lives: God offers a chance to start over!
by Tim Hall