The Unfair Treatment of Ben Roethlisberger

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Category : faith

The following is a post I made on a Steelers football blog.  It seemed more appropriate there, than here.  However, it was deemed “too religious” to stay there, so they deleted it.  No hard feelings on my part.  But more on the experience next week. In the meantime, I thought it was too good to end up in the delete bin of some random server.  So here you go….

This is one of those posts that I’ve been putting off.  I keep thinking I should write it.  But then I don’t want to.  Partly because it violates my “don’t talk about people” rule for blogging.  And partly because it’s just opening a can of worms.  But with my beloved Steelers making it into the Super Bowl, I think it’s time.  And as you can guess from the title, we’re going to talk about Ben Roethlisberger.

Now before we get into the conversation I want to say two things to set the stage.

1.        I have no idea what he did or what happened in Georgia or in Nevada.  Obviously whatever happened wasn’t good.

2.       If Ben (or anyone) assaulted someone, then the correct punishment is jail.

However I want to set those points aside and talk about something else.  I want to talk about us.  The fans.  The nation.  The media.  In other words, I want to talk about everyone who isn’t Ben Roethlisberger.  Specifically what are we supposed to think?  Should we hate the man because of alleged crimes?  Should we hold him accountable even when a court doesn’t?  Does winning make a difference?  Does winning mean Ben needs to work harder to redeem himself off the field?

Reading around the web we see points of view all over.  We see Gregg Doyel saying he believes Ben’s changed.  We see Joe Starkey saying, who knows?  We see others saying that we’re all a bunch of racists because we’re treating Vick and Ben differently.

So how are we supposed to act?

Well in my mind, Ben has answered this question himself.   He claims he’s changed.  He claims he’s different.  He claims he’s learned his lesson.  But most importantly he claims he’s re-found God.

It’s that last one that really matters to me.  Because as a Christian, I need to take seriously anyone’s claim to believe.  Now obviously I don’t know Ben.  I have no idea if he’s changed or if he’s really found God.  Politicians, mobsters, athletes and actors have all “found” God just as the press was getting a bit uncomfortable.  For all I know it could be a scam.  Perhaps Starkey has a point.

I pray with all my heart he does believe in God.  In fact I pray for Ben a lot.  I pray that his life is so changed that people can’t help but notice God’s power.  Is that unfair?  Absolutely.  It’s not fair that Ben can redeem himself through playing winning football.  It’s not fair that he can be a millionaire and live in luxury, while so many of us make smaller mistakes and have our lives destroyed.

But who claimed life was fair?  Certainly not God.

When I look at the Bible’s list of prominent people, three of the most important were Moses, David, and Paul.  All three have something in common.  They all either directly or indirectly murdered people.  Heroes of faith, murderers all.

Yet God used their failures as platforms for their redemptions.  They all died with a greater appreciation for God.  They worked harder, trusted more, and ultimately made more of a difference to history because of their terrible sins.

Is Ben going to be the next Moses?  I have no idea.  I don’t even know who’s going to win the game next week.  But if he’s truly changed, if he truly believes in God, then why not?  God has done crazier things in history.

This brings us back to our response.  Some people are going to fully embrace Ben because he’s “behaved” for 10 months.  Others will embrace him because he’s winning.  Still others will hate him all the more because he’s winning or because he hasn’t “suffered” to their level of satisfaction.

When you have reporters, alleged un-biased, bringers of truth say things like, “By the time Super Bowl XLV hype is done, and the Big Ben redemption stories have been told, we’ll all be confusing him with Tim Tebow” on Twitter, there is anger out there.   Anger at God.  Anger at Ben.  Anger at the unfairness of it all.

Some of you may be angry that this is bringing faith into the conversation.  But I don’t see any other way to answer the question of Ben’s redemption.  How else do you know when “enough is enough?” 

So if you don’t share my faith, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t have advice to offer you as to how you should look at Ben.  I don’t know what defines “enough” for you.  But as for anyone who calls themselves “Christian” I think there is only one path.  And that’s to welcome him back.  It’s to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us.  If it was good enough for Moses, David, and Paul, then it’s good enough for Ben.

For me the journey ends here.  I will forgive Ben.  I will pray for Ben.  And I will let God decide if Ben is sincere or not.

God gives us freedom

Category : God, Jesus, different, taking action

……….

Football coaches are known for their paranoia.  They fear that the slightest bit of information might give an advantage to their opponent.  Now in a game that can be decided by fractions of a second or just a few inches of height that seems understandable.  How many games have been decided by a ball that just flew over the outstretched fingers of a defender?  It seems like the last couple of Super Bowls have played out that way.

But sometimes coaches get caught up in their paranoia.  It takes on a larger role than just a precaution, it begins to determine their actions.

One such example comes from a former University of Pittsburgh coach.  During the middle of practice the head coach began to suspect his team was being spied upon.  So he called down to two police officers and told them to check out the “suspicious” guy who was leaning against a telephone poll a few hundred yards away.

The police, doing what they were hired for, jumped in their car and sped toward the man.

A few minutes later they returned.

“Well?” asked the coach.

“He’s waiting for the bus.” they replied.

The problem with freedom isn’t that we can’t have it – it’s that we don’t know how to get it.  We’ve fallen for the lie that to get something we have to “power up.”  That if we aren’t fighting for what’s “ours” we aren’t going to get anything.  Then, when we do get something, we need to be so controlling that we start hoarding it.

That’s what the University of Pittsburgh coach thought.  He was so set on protecting his winning record that he saw a spy behind every telephone pole.  Fortunately not all of us make the news when we’re paranoid or controlling.  But we all have areas where we struggle.

You might call these areas “strongholds.”

We start out thinking these strongholds are going to keep us safe.  If you’ve ever been hurt by a loved one, you can understand this.  We build walls so high around our heart that no one can ever enter.  But eventually we learn these aren’t to protect us, they are to imprison us!

What was once a way to protect our broken heart has become the very thing that makes us so lonely.

Freedom does not come from strongholds.  It doesn’t come from being on the attack.  Or defending what’s ours.  It comes from God.

Freedom is being who God designed you to be.

The reality is, every stronghold you have prevents you from experiencing that freedom.  Those walls keep you a prisoner.

So how do we break free?  Simple: by enabling other people to become free.

That sounds pretty radical.  But then does pretty much everything Jesus said.  Do you think the Pittsburgh football coach was free assuming that everyone was out to spy on him?  Do you think you are truly free when you hold onto your anger and pain over being wronged?  Of course not.  But those are the natural results of what happens when we try to do it “our way.”

Jesus recognized that as long as we try and hold onto our resentment and bitterness we would never be free.  It’s only be releasing our claim on people who have wronged us, that we can become free.  That’s why it is God’s place to judge.  That’s why Jesus said we should love our enemies.  It’s why Peter told Jews (who were slaves to the Romans) to be subject to their masters.

Holding onto anger, resentment, pain puts us into bondage.  It steals are freedom.  It is no way to live a life of faith

Only by giving up control can we set others free.  And only after we set others free, can we ourselves be set free.

forgiveness

Category : Jesus, Matthew, bible, different, hope, living a life of faith

……….

Think for a moment about someone you really dislike.  Maybe you even hate them.  Maybe they’ve hurt you.  Maybe they’ve lied to you.  Or maybe you just find them annoying.  Are you thinking about them?  Good.  Now what are the first three things that pop into your head?  Is one of them forgiveness?  Because it should be.

Forgiveness.  That’s not something I like to even think about, let alone do.  I have a very hard time backing down from arguments.  I like to be right, and I’m not afraid to fight to be seen as “right.”  So when someone does something that harms me, I have a hard time letting go.

R3 focuses a lot on the idea of living out your faith.  And for a Christian, forgiveness is a major part of that life.  But I really struggle with it.  Intellectually I understand what’s going on.  I even get why God would ask us to do it.  But it’s just hard to pull the trigger on forgiveness.  It’s so much easier to hate.

That’s why I find Jesus’ interaction with Peter so interesting.  And scary.

Jesus radically raises the bar for forgiveness.  When Peter asks him how many times he should forgive someone, Peter suggests seven would be a good number.  Now in Jewish culture you were obligated to forgive someone 3 times.  So Peter was going above and beyond what was expected.  Plus, he chose the number 7 knowing full well that in Jewish culture it  implied a “completeness”.  Peter was trying to say he would forgive someone a lot, more than maybe anyone else.  He thought he was doing something good, going way above and beyond his duty as a Jew.

But this still wasn’t what Jesus was looking for.  Jesus isn’t interested in us “trying harder.”  He’s interested in our lives radically changing.  So he told Peter, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Jesus wanted to make the point that there isn’t some magical number you hit and then you’re “good.”  Instead, it’s about changing your heart and aligning yourself with God’s forgiving nature.

In the end it was Peter who ultimately needed to receive that forgiveness which Jesus spoke of.  As Jesus was lead away by authorities, Peter had a chance to show support, all he had to do was simply say he knew Jesus.  Yet three times Peter denied even knowing him.  Peter abandoned Jesus when Jesus needed a friend the most.  Yet Jesus still forgave Peter, and actually went on to use him to build the Jerusalem church.

I may never figure out how to forgive people 77 times.  I may only be able to do it once.  But I am grateful that God is forgiving.  Because I know  I certainly need it.  And maybe, right now, the best thing I can do is simply struggle with the idea of forgiveness.  Maybe it’s that struggle in applying Jesus’ teachings to our lives that ultimately builds our faith.  And in turn, allows us to forgive 77 times.

quote of the day: Dietrich Bonhoeffer – forgiveness

Category : God, faith, live for the eternal, living a life of faith, love, taking action

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship wrote:

“Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God.  Jesus does not promise that when we bless our enemies and do good to them they will not despitefully use and persecute us.  They certainly will.  But not even that can hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them….We are doing vicariously for them what they cannot do for themselves.”

God and the Konami cheat code

Category : God, failure, faith, fear, hope, humor, sin

  

Sometimes it’s easy to get down on ourselves.  We blame ourselves for our sins, for our failures.  We start thinking that God can’t use us because we’re not perfect.  God offers us an infinite number of “do overs.”  But we need to be willing to go to him and accept that. 

When I think of that I’m reminded of this shirt:

 

Konami cheat code t-shirt

 Image courtasy ShirtADay

(For those of you who didn’t grow up playing video games this is known as the Konami cheat code, which gave you 30 lives in various video games.)

Peter’s redemption

Category : God, Mark, faith, hope

 

Peter’s world had just come crashing down around him.  The man he thought was God had just been arrested.  The man he thought was going to free Israel from the oppressive Roman rule had given up without a fight.  Now this same man was being beaten and disgraced.  And because things weren’t bad enough, Peter had just denied even knowing him.

All of this came only hours after swearing that he would be willing to die for Jesus.  Now Peter had to confront the fact that he had failed.  Spectacularly.  The thing is, Jesus had even told Peter all of this would happen.  But Peter was too proud to listen.  He was too sure of himself.

Up to this point Peter had a history of acting boldly.  Perhaps even impulsively.  He had never run away from God before.  So this was new territory. 

It must have been lonely.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that after all this Peter “broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:72)

If this is where the story ended it would be pretty depressing.  But fortunately this is just the beginning.

All too often we live with the belief that if we fail, even a little bit, God will become angry with us.  That somehow making a mistake is the worst thing we could do.  And therefore we don’t try at all. 

But this is clearly not the case.

Peter failed spectacularly.  His mistake is recorded in the Bible, which means people will read about it for thousands of years.  Talk about embarrassing!  And yet God used him to do amazing things. 

That’s one of the most remarkable things about God – no matter what we’ve done, he gives us another chance.  He says, “don’t worry about the mistakes in the past, trust in the promises I make for your future.  And act on them now.”

I guess that really takes all of my excuses away for not acting.  If God can use Peter after denying God, then I think he can use me too.

loving debt

Category : God, hope

       

What is it that makes people do revolutionary things like starting ministries, helping the poor, and loving the broken?  Why is it that someone would be willing to sacrifice everything and follow God into the unknown? 

For me that answer is simple, and it’s the same answer Jesus gave when a sinful woman poured perfume over his feet – “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47

What drives your relationship with God?

redemption: finding the way home

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Category : God, bible, sin, taking action

         

Like Darth Vader, the King of Tyre turned his gifts into his curse.  His looks, his wisdom and his wealth all turned against him.  All because he began to misuse them.  But he’s not the only one to do that, is he?  You’ve done it.  I know I’ve done it.  We all use our talents and gifts to abuse our power.  To manipulate people.  And to make ourselves feel better when we should be helping others.

Scientists have a term for this, it’s called “human nature.”

But God always calls us to something greater.  That’s what makes our sins so tragic – the very gifts God has given us to change the world, we use to destroy ourselves and other people.  When I screw up, and I realize it, I find it hard to turn back to God.  I know I should, but he feels so distant, and unreachable.  I tell myself, “I don’t deserve to talk to God right now.  I haven’t earned my way back.”  I feel like I need to make amends, to set things “right” before I can start talking with God again.

But that’s not what God wants.  He doesn’t want us to be punished, he wants us to be saved.

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

That doesn’t sound like a God who wants us to suffer.  It sounds like a God who loves us a great deal and is heart broken when we fight against him.  It sounds like a God who just wants us to turn from our mistakes and embrace him.

I am constantly amazed at God’s patience.  No matter how many times we openly, and aggressively reject him, God is always willing to forgive us.  “If I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right….None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him.” (Ezekiel 33: 14-16)

It’s hard in our culture to accept things we don’t earn.  We want to earn things so we can prove our worth.  We want to show that we deserve to be here.  But neither our salvation nor our worth is something we earn.  They are both things that God gives to us.  Freely.  Simply because he loves us. 

All the King of Tyre had to do was tell God he was sorry, and turn away from his pride and arrogance.  But he couldn’t do that.  He had lost control of his greatest strengths and they had become his greatest liabilities.   He began to worship himself instead of God.  And that’s not how we’re designed to operate.  No matter how many times he was warned, he didn’t want to hear it.  

At least Darth Vader recognized his mistake, and repented.  And just like God often does, his weaknesses once again became his strengths, and he was able to save not only his son, but the galaxy.   

God wants to forgive us, we just have to be willing to ask.