Sunday, September 09, 2007

"I Found Jesus"

"I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to bettering Michael Vick the person, not the football player... I take full responsibility for my actions... not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or what I've done... I'm upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. And I think that's the right thing to do as of right now... Once again, I offer my deepest apologies to everyone. And I will redeem myself. I have to." excerpts from the AP transcript of Michael Vick's statement following his guilty plea in U.S. District Court to a dog fighting conspiracy charge
A friend of mine called me last week & asked me what I thought about Michael Vick "finding Jesus"... my first reaction, not having heard the press conference, was two-fold:
  • The reality of any conversion experience is only completely clear between God & the person who is surrendering to God - so, no matter how cynical I feel about someone who just entered a guilty plea saying that he "found Jesus", I am not the final arbiter of who gets to follow God & who doesn't. In other words, only Michael Vick really knows if he was blowin' smoke or confessing faith (Romans 10:9-10) earlier this week.
  • I'm not sure Michael Vick understands what he's gotten himself into by claiming Christ. At its best, Christianity calls us to be be accountable to each other... up to & including the quality of our behavior.
I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn't make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn't mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You'd have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn't act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can't just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I'm not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don't we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (The Message)
Of course, once I had the opportunity to read the transcript of the press conference, some other things stood out:
  • The guy owned his own junk - say what you will, but that's pretty weird in our "my parents/teacher/posse/etc. made me do it" culture.
  • On the other hand, the "I will redeem myself" line is a little worrisome - it sounds as if he plans to earn his way back into the goodwill of the public...and possibly God.
Please understand: I don't know this guy. While I've admired his football playing skills, I've never been a big fan of Michael Vick. Anything I'm writing today is based solely on what I've read & seen on TV.

As one commentator (Mark Bradley) put it, it's easy to dismiss his stated faith in Christ because "a disproportionate number of religious conversions occur when the convert is about to become a convict." That's the pull I feel in my heart - a nagging desire to write this guy off, not simply because of his criminal behavior, but because of my own cynical reaction to a public declaration of faith in a difficult time.

But Jesus calls me (and the rest of us) to something deeper - to pray for Michael Vick & his faith in Christ, to refuse to gossip & backbite & slander, to hope for the best rather than imagine the worst. That doesn't preclude us calling him on the carpet for being "out of line", of course.

And if that's true for the way we treat a football superstar, it should be the same for the guy who lives down the street from us.

You must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Jude 22-23 (New Living Translation)

This article originally appeared in the 9/02/07 issue of the Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

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