December 7, 2007 - Forgiving Michael Vick


On Monday, Dec. 10, former National Football League (U.S. football) quarterback Michael Vick is scheduled to be sentenced for his conviction related to gambling and illegal dog fighting. The public discussion of Vick’s conviction raises important questions about forgiveness. To study the matter in-depth, you can download a short Bible study on the subject at – jw

“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap …” (Galatians 6:7 HCSB)

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Whenever someone fails in a public manner, people start asking, “Should he be forgiven for what he did?”

We struggle with the question because, often, we think forgiveness comes with conditions or that it’s the equivalent of letting the offender off the hook. Some even think that forgiveness somehow minimizes the offense.

This first caught my attention when a friend of Michael Vick’s, appearing on ESPN, said he told the quarterback (and I’m paraphrasing), “If Jesus is your Lord, and you really believe in him, and you’ve asked him for forgiveness, then you are forgiven. He’s fully forgiven you.”

As we say in the South, that’ll preach! It lines right up with 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (NIV)

But then this well-intentioned and supportive friend went on to say that, if Vick continues walking in righteousness, God also will return all the things taken away from the athlete – his NFL career, his million-dollar contracts, his star-quality – God would return it all to him two-fold.

I have to admit, that would be a comforting and encouraging thought for anyone in the middle of a mess, particularly one as monumental and public as Vick’s current circumstances. But it’s not a biblical thought.

Forgiveness is not a contract with God, as in, “You forgive me and I get my old life back.” Forgiveness is God’s choice; it emerges from his infinite love. He paid a bloody, costly price to forgive us and “proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 HCSB)

In other words, God will forgive you for what you have done, but he most likely won’t remove the consequences of your actions.

I remember my father telling me this on the day I told him my girlfriend was pregnant. He said, “God will forgive you, but that doesn’t mean he’ll remove the consequences of your sin.”

As he said this, the Holy Spirit reached deep into my memory and pulled a verse from its dusty recesses: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7 NIV)

God forgives fully and unconditionally, but that doesn’t mean we won’t reap what we have sown: the crisis pregnancy remains, the prosecution takes place, the job is lost, or the death occurs.

God often will bring our sin to light because he’s trying to bring us back to himself. When the consuming fire of God’s love forces our bad behaviors and attitudes out of the shadows, we’re able to see clearly how far we’ve moved away from God’s purpose for our lives, and the crisis this creates compels us to journey back to God. (Consider Isaiah 6.)

Oswald Chambers, the Scottish minister who wrote the classic book, My Utmost for His Highest, describes God as “the Great Engineer,” who is much more interested in the eternal consequences of our decisions than he is in such temporary matters as where we work, how we look, or what we can keep hidden. (Consider Jeremiah 1:13-19; Luke 12:2-3.)

In other words, he’s more concerned about our character than with keeping up appearances. He’s more concerned that we get it right with him than with our reputation, status, wealth, comfort, or ability to do something better than anyone else – even if it’s playing quarterback in the NFL.

Michael Vick appears to be learning this. In his public apology, he said God was more interested in Michael Vick the man than he was in Michael Vick the football player. Amen, brother. May God guide your growth.

Vick says his present circumstances – his conviction – led him to Christ. And with that, we can see how the Great Engineer is right there with us in crisis. No matter how monumental the crisis may seem, it is not beyond God’s ability to redeem it. He is working in our lives even when we can’t see him at work. God says, “I know the plans I have for you …. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

When considering Vick’s colossal earthly losses – the height from which he has fallen – those losses are minor compared to him missing out on an eternity with God, the Heavenly Father. It is possible that those losses will one day seem minor to Vick when the truth of God takes deep root within him: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37 NKJV; also consider Philippians 3:8.)

Here’s the thing: Michael Vick is worth more to God than any NFL contract, more than temporary fame, more than any way we measure glory and legendary status.

And, if that’s true for Michael Vick, then it’s true for you, too. You’re worth more to God than all the wealth in and out of the NFL. God shows how much he values you in this way: Christ died for you while you were still steeped in sin (paraphrase of Romans 5:8 NCV).

What now?

· Really forgiven? – Do you believe God has truly forgiven you? If not, ask him why you feel this way. Perhaps there is more you need to address regarding your sin. Or perhaps it’s a sign you’re struggling to believe God’s truth: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)

· God the Engineer – If you’re in the midst of a crisis, or just a “blessed mess,” how would you look at it differently if you knew God engineered it to bring you back to him or redirect your life? Look at Jeremiah 1:11-19 and consider why God allowed hardship to overtake Israel. Did God mean it for good?

· Remember God’s father heart – When the prodigal headed home to his father, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:20-24 NIV)

· Pray for Michael Vick – Pray that the Christ-seed within him will grow into a mighty Jesus-tree, that he will stay committed to Christ, and that Vick will emerge from this crisis as a faithful voice on behalf of God. Have a feast and celebrate, for this child of God is alive again; he was lost but now he’s found!

© 2007 Jon Walker. All rights reserved.