Thursday, May 21, 2009

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway...Father Jerome Cummings

Eternity. I thinks it's impossible as finite physical beings to grasp the concept. No beginning or end to a single days at all. Beyond my understanding.

I have a friend (I'll qualify that definition in just a second) who probably thinks he knows the meaning of eternity. He's doing 26 years in a federal prison, and he just started last August. That's 26 years at 100% required good behavior time. I'm sure each day seems like an eternity to him.

He deserves the sentence he received because he was involved in some pretty heinous stuff. Things that make your stomach get all knotted up and, as a father, get really, really out of your comfort zone. He was a coach. His crime involved sexual battery...with boys. It also included child pornography. He got what he deserved and maybe not enough.

His arrest was a complete shock to his friends and peers. A completely likable guy that was always fun to be around, I've interviewed him on the radio a number of times about his basketball program in a small, obscure school in the upper corner of nowhere. He worked hard and was an integral part of the community. The revelation was devastating as everyone tried to marry the crime with the person. We were all shocked at the revolting details as each became available.

Some, no most, of his friends were repelled and disgusted by the betrayal. There was a lot of vicious, threatening language used when the matter was discussed. I tried to find understanding and forgiveness in my own heart for him...but it was very slow in coming. I don't think I'll ever reach the part of understanding, but I try to maintain that I have my own sins to worry about when it comes to offending my Creator.

God sometimes has a peculiar way of convicting us. Yesterday, just out of the blue, my friend's name just popped into my thoughts. I can't explain why, other than God wanted me to think about I did...and I prayed for direction. What do You want me to do? As I turned on SportsCenter last night in my nightly ritual, the lead story was the release of Michael Vick from federal prison. Later in the story, Tony Dungy was quoted as saying he believes Vick deserved forgiveness and a second chance. Compassionate words from a renowned Christian and man of God. I found myself in agreement but with exception. Should he be allowed to return to the position of prominence he enjoyed before his own heinous crimes were discovered? I was conflicted in my own opinion. God could receive glory in the return of Vick to the NFL if Vick stayed true to his testimony of being born again. I concluded that my opinion is...well... completely irrelevant. God's will shall be done.

I don't find coincidence in the thoughts of my friend and the story of Vick being prominent yesterday. Both are infamous in their own way, yet aren't we all in the sight of God? The Bible is very clear all fall short of His glory and that none of us is without sin. I've read and heard much about the difference in severity (or lack of) in our sins, but my understanding is akin to that of the concept of eternity. If sin is sin in God's eye with none being more evil than another...then my own feelings are seriously misplaced when it comes to my friend. He needs God's forgiveness and mercy more than anything else...just like me.

My statement that he got what he deserves stands as true as it did a few paragraphs ago. What he did was vile and wrong, and he should be locked away. But setting things right with society and setting things right with the Almighty have no comparison. The 26 years he will spend for his crimes are justice served. Crime needs to be punished. Dangerous criminals like my friend need to be locked up. Call it a sickness, a pathological disorder or just plain evilness...society has an obligation to protect the innocent from the infringements of sexual predators.

His soul is another matter. As he pays society for his wrongdoing, my friend can make peace with God...and I hope he does. For some of you, that may be hard to swallow. Why should a sex offender who committed such atrocious acts be allowed the reward of heaven? Be careful...that's a very slippery trail to travel...and one we shouldn't even be on in the first place.

I hate what he done with a passion that I don't completely understand. God hates my sins also with a like zeal...I'm just glad He looks past them to still love me. My friend is a whosoever just like me in John 3:16, he can accept the same gift provided by Christ's sacrifice on a cross, and I hope he seeks and ask for that forgiveness.

Today, I felt lead to share these thoughts with you, then find out how to write my friend and let him know that God loves him...and I love him too. Maybe reading this compels you to extend forgiveness to someone that has been long coming. I hope what I'm doing is the true will of God, and I'm going to have faith that it is...besides, I don't want to start eternity by answering to my Creator for not putting my personal feelings aside to follow His commandments and will for my life.

Don't worry, I'll get back to my lighter musings next week...unless I get another tug. May God bless you in a special way today.


David said...

Great stuff, Tony!

Hitler, Mother Theresa, you, me, your buddy-- Michael Vick - we all have sinned and need Jesus to save us. And I have it on good authority that Jesus won't be judging anyone until they are dead- so why should I.

I am sorry for the loss you must feel for a friend that morally fails like that. I am sure that I have hurt my friends and family with some of the things that I have done.

But thank God for a grace that saved a wretch like me.

Beth in NC said...

When I hear about people who do acts like this, I often wonder if they were molested as children.

I pray this man will come to know Jesus and get set free spiritually from the demons that drive him.

But I also pray for healing for these innocent young men who were violated. God bless them and all involved.

May God guide you as you reach out and minister to this man.

Laretha said...

Tony, this post makes me cry. Your friend does deserve the consequence of his sin, but he does also deserve the same forgiveness that has been extended to us.

I don't believe God puts "degrees" on sin. Sin is sin and we have all fallen short. ALL.

Great post. Great reminder.

God bless you as you follow Christs leading on writing to your friend. I pray it is well received and softens his heart towards a Savior who loves Him.


Matt @ The Church of No People said...

That is a great story, Tony, although a tough one. I feel for you and he. I just saw a student walk out of my life today in the middle of a crossroads in his life. I may see him in 10 years and he'll be fine, or he might be in an institution. Hard for me to think about.

Tevet said...

Great read, Tony, very thought provoking.
I think we all will be surprised by who we meet in heaven and possibly by who we don't meet up with.

Z said...

This was a blessing...thanks.
I hope you do write to him in a very loving're right;society is punishing him and he could be open to completely changing his heart.
I hope you let us know how that goes.

have a great weekend. May God continue to work in your life...and may He work in your friend's too.

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