Michael Vick And Second Chances

A Sports Talk radio station in Chicago (670 The Score) polled its listeners today. They asked what has been the most compelling story in the young NFL season thus far. Over 67% of responders indicated that Michael Vick’s comeback for the Philadelphia Eagles was their top choice. 

For those who have been off-planet or are not football fans, Michael Vick was an incredibly talented young quarterback whose career and life took a horrible turn. His conviction for involvement in the illegal and dreadful world of dogfighting led to an 18-month jail sentence. Now released, expressing remorse, and speaking to young people about the evils of his past ways, Vick’s has revived his career in Philadelphia. 

Not everyone is happy, including Debbie Sanville who is a season-ticket holder who has refused to attend a game since Vick signed. She believes Vick only regrets getting caught and has no remorse for his dogfighting past (Are Eagles’ Fans Ready to Embrace Vick?). 

Not Redemption, but a Second Chance

Listening to callers on The Score, I was not surprised to hear them use words like “redemption”  and “resurrection” (“He’s experienced a redemption.” “Vick has resurrected his career.”) Of course, they are using theologically-loaded words with no theological intent. Our society does that frequently. 

I have no clue where Vick is spiritually or whether he has found spiritual redemption through the new life that comes by faith in Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection. Nor would I dare, like Sanville did, to judge the thoughts and intents of Vick’s heart. That’s a role not for my spirit but for the Holy Spirit. 

However, I was disappointed by some callers who determined that Vick never should have been allowed back in the NFL. Apparently for them, there is no such thing as a second chance, even after a person has been tried, punished, and done his time according to the justice system. I wonder if the callers believe that someone who has been convicted should be sentenced to a life without any future chance at employment. 

None of this is meant to minimize the horrors of the dogfighting world. And, of course, some crimes should lead to some occupations being off-limits. 

Role Models: You’re Kidding, Right?

The logic, if you could call it that, of some callers went like this. Professional athletes are role models, therefore, if they commit a crime, even if they do the time, they should never be allowed back on such an influential platform. 

Please. Doctors are role models. Firefighters are role models. Nurses are role models. Teachers are role models. Pastors are role models. Mill workers are role models. Most importantly, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are role models. But professional athletes like professional actors—they’ve proven long ago that though they are talented in their fields, they have not risen to the pinnacle of success because of their character. 

Should they be role models? Could they be role models? Sure. But we ought to be teaching young people that character is what counts, not talent. 

A Christian Approach

As a follower of Christ, my ultimate prayer and longing for someone like Michael Vick is spiritual redemption—new life in Christ. Perhaps he has already experienced that; I do not know. 

But also as a Christian, I would stand up for Michael Vick’s right to a second chance to use his talents in his career as a professional football player. Not simply on the basis of some humanitarian impulse, but on the foundation of theological principles such as forgiveness, grace, and yes, even “redemption.” While some may flippantly use this term, the spiritual ramifications of redemption ought to play out vocationally and relationally. 

I forgive a brother when he sins against me on the basis of my having received forgiveness in Christ. I reconcile with a sister when we have had a dispute on the basis of having been reconciled to God through Christ. I give an employee a second chance because the father pursued the prodigal, Christ forgave the woman caught in adultery, and He gave the woman at the well a fifth chance (the man you are with now—your fifth man…). 

Spiritual redemption in Christ should have practical implications relationally and vocationally. In fact, maybe we could view these comebacks, these second chances in life, as a small taste, a tiny glimpse of that ultimate spiritual redemption. Your act of grace toward me may be part of the Spirit’s work in bringing me to conviction and repentance. 

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