Monday, August 4, 2008

Repentance and Forgiveness: NFL Style

If you're a football fan, chances are you've seen the ugly headlines out of the Panthers' training camp from over the weekend. Star WR Steve Smith has been suspended two games for punching CB Ken Lucas during Friday's practice. Many people will certainly form an instant opinion that Smith is an example of al that's wrong with pro sports. That would be a shame, since Smith has followed his bad example Friday with a truly great one today.

Smith has always had temper issues. In 2002, he was suspended for a game after a similar incident with teammate Anthony Bright. In 2003, he cost the team a game against the Houston Texans when his 15-yard penalty for kicking an opponent negated a first down and ended what was shaping up to be a game-winning drive. However, since then, something has happened to Smith. He professed faith in Christ. He didn't become an instant golden boy, but he has grown tremendously. His temper has been kept largely in check over the last 5 years. Last year against Atlanta, it was Smith who kept his cool while baiting DeAngelo Hall's temper into 67 yards of penalties on Carolina's game-winning drive. Ever wonder why you don't see anymore of the entertaining touchdown celebrations Smith became famous for in 2005? As Smith says, it's because he needed to be "more about God and less about me."

So, as a fan and as a brother in Christ, watching Friday's events hurt. However, my admiration for Smith went up a hundredfold today with his first public comments about the incident. What he did is something almost unheard of in our modern culture - he accepted full responsibility for his actions and expressed humble repentance. Here's an excerpt...

"I will not put myself in position where I have to defend myself or state my side of the story. There's only one side, which is a lack of judgment on my part. I have no excuse...I'm going to take this opportunity to let God break me, humble me, and continually let me move forward in being the person I can truly be - and that's a God-fearing man, no matter what people may think or what they may say. It's an opportunity for me to stand tall and take my punishment, but take it with God on my side and not me standing up trying to be something that I'm not. I'm a fallen man. I'm a man who made a mistake. I intend to mend the bridges I have burned and help rebuild a bridge if I need to all by myself, but not do it in a spiteful way. But to do it with the labor and the sound mind that God gives me, which is to do what I'm supposed to do. I'm not going to get into who's right, who's wrong. I'm completely wrong. (It was) an asinine decision."

Of course, repentance is defined by actions, not just words - but the way that Smith has taken responsibility gives me great encouragement about his future. He's a work in progress, sure, but so are you and I - being ever more closely conformed to the image of Christ. Pray for Steve Smith this week, that God would grow him in grace and truth, removing the sinful remains of the old man. Also, take a look at Lucas' response - itself a lesson in Christian forgiveness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that about Steve Smith. I do seem to remember him getting ejected rather early in a game with my Dallas Cowboys last season for bumping into a referee during an argument.