Full disclosure: I will not be cheering for Michael Vick this Fall. I hope he has the worst year statistically of his entire career, and that the Eagles as a whole implode faster than my own dreams of being a professional football player. But that’s because I’m a Cowboys fan. It has nothing to do with the dog fighting.
Because I am a glutton for punishment, I still occasionally peruse the comments section on sports articles on the internet. On articles having to do with Michael Vick this is a particularly fascinating (punishing?) thing to do. It’s clear that a large segment of the population doesn’t think Vick should ever be forgiven for what he has done, has dismissed him as having little to no value as a person, and genuinely resents him his chance at redemption. What is truly saddening is that quite a few of these people seem to be Christians, and that they seem to have reached these stances based on seemingly “Christian” values.
So here are what I think are some genuine Christian values that people should keep in mind when reacting to the Michael Vick situation:
Michael Vick bears the image of God.
Michael Vick has intrinsic value, as all human beings do, as someone who is made in God’s image. What exactly that means is a complex question beyond the scope of this particular blog entry, but what is absolutely means is that he cannot be dismissed as having no value. Christians should be cheering for his redemption as loud as for anyone else’s. Which brings me to my second point …
Redemption is always a good thing. Always.
First, Michael Vick isn’t getting away with anything. He served his prison time, and he seems to be genuinely repentant and changed by the experience. It’s odd, then, to see some Christians resenting his redemption, feeling as if he doesn’t deserve the chance to repent, to be changed. This is particularly odd given that the foundation of the entire Christian understanding of reality as we find it is the desperate need for redemption of everyone and everything. Quite simply, we cannot thank God for our own redemption, then resent the work of redemption in the lives of others. I genuinely hope Vick has changed. I’m rooting for him.
The Bible speaks about only one unforgivable sin … and it’s not dog fighting.
Look, I’m a dog person. I really love dogs. And when I think about someone abusing, torturing, and murdering dogs (or any animal for that matter) … well, my hand gets itchy for a baseball bat. It’s sick. It’s completely inexcusable. But it’s not unforgivable. Christians, as the ones who uphold the intrinsic value of humanity based on the image of God and who strive to share the hope of redemption with all mankind, ought to be screaming this the loudest. Michael Vick can be forgiven. We all can be forgiven. That’s how big the redemption of God is.
Fine, you say, he can come out of prison. Heck, he can even have a job and a normal life. But he doesn’t deserve a chance to play in the NFL again. He certainly doesn’t deserve the chance to make the $100 million dollars his new contract is worth. Granted. You think it doesn’t get to me that this guy gets to make $100 million dollars while law-abiding citizens like my family are stuck trying to stay in the black month to month on two-part time jobs in a horrible economy? Sure, it’s unfair! But the thing about God’s grace is that it is lavish. For those on the outside looking in, lavishness will often seem unfair. And, of course, I believe God will hold Vick responsible for how he handles that $100 million dollars. Let us pray he’s a wise steward of the funds.
When I see Vick’s story, I see the gospel unfolding before me. Does Vick self-identify as a Christian? If not, will he ever do so? I don’t know. But so far his redemption is beautiful to me. Make no mistake, I will be cheering against Vick and the Eagles with all my heart this Fall, but I will also be rooting Vick on as a person. For I am in need of redemption, too. And watching his unfold comforts me in thinking about my own.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)