You may or may not know that I am an Auburn fan. Pretty big one, I think. And this year they are doing really well. Living in the land of the Bulldogs and Jackets, I proudly display as much Auburn paraphernalia on my desk as possible.
One of the reasons Auburn has done well this year is because of the transfer of an extremely talented player, Cam Newton. Cam chose the University of Florida over Auburn. However, after an off-the-field incident involving a stolen computer, he transfered to Binn Junior College where he led his team to a national championship. Having now transfered to Auburn and having a stellar year, he is now on the top of many lists for the Heisman trophy.
He was actually the subject of conversation between me and a good friend of mine, who just happens to pull for "the other school." His ribbing on Cam is not on his play, (there is nothing he can say about that) but rather his past. And my friend is not the only one. I saw this article the other night which describes the incident in Florida and questions whether or not he is worthy of the Heisman because of those events.
I don't know Cam. I don't know anyone that does know Cam. I have cheered for him and am extremely thankful he plays for Auburn and not some other SEC school! But can a person make a mistake and change? Can they be in the wrong place, do something less than stellar, and pay the consequences, coming out on the other side more mature and different? I am not saying he has or hasn't. I just want to ask the question. I am not the only one.
A couple of things I do know. I do know someone very well who was the head coach at a large Division 1 NCAA football program. I heard him talk numerous times about the opportunity he had as a coach to invest in the young men in their program. And not just help them do better. This man is a firm believer in Christ and he saw it as an opportunity to live and speak the Gospel to these guys. I know as well that Mark Richt, head coach at the University of Georgia, is a devoted follower of Christ whose faith has had an impact on numerous players. And I spoke to someone this summer who had recently heard coach Gene Chizik speak at a summer F.C.A. camp and share his faith in Christ.
I am not saying that having a Christian coach means that your players are all saints. Unfortunately, coach Richt has had that splashed all over the place this season. In fact, I am not even so much thinking about football any more. I am thinking about grace.
I am reminded of Paul's words:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis added)
And such were some of you. That's the ever present reminder of grace. Because of our sinfulness, we all have things in our past that disqualify us for more than a mere trophy. We have rebellion that sets us at odds with God. We all are guilty. And yet, in steps Christ who bears God's wrath and showers us with His grace. We are not worthy, but His sacrifice makes us worthy.
Has Cam changed? I hope so. Has Cam changed because of Jesus is King of his life? I really, really hope so. Is coach Chizik pouring a Jesus-saturated example into Cam's life and the lives of the other men on the team? I pray so.
Nonetheless, let's remember that grace is the only hope we have. I don't want to be a Pharisee that takes grace and gives wrath. Life's more than football. Our convictions must carry over in every facet of our lives. Even when it means giving a guy the benefit of the doubt.