I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Second Chances

Who doesn't need a second chance? I have been thinking about this and about it's sister--forgiveness--quite a bit lately. After all, every one of us stumbles and falls from time to time. Every one of us needs to fix whatever it is we have broken or whatever balls we have dropped. I know that lately I have been off my game more than usual. I have made mistakes at work and at home. Sure, there is Son #3, which is enough to make anyone distracted. Still, that is no reason to give up on the ol' quest for perfection!

Of course, there are people whose affairs are in great disarray. They need a second chance, too. I am thinking, by way of example, of Ricky Williams, the Running Back for the Miami Dolphins who failed his final drug test and will be playing for the Canadian Football League this year.

In an article entitled Ricky Williams Dreams of Canada, one of his new teammates, himself a recovering addict, said Ricky deserves a second chance, a third chance. As long as you're breathing, you deserve a chance. He ain't killed nobody yet. He hasn't taken life, so he deserves a chance. What Ricky did, incidentally, was smoke marijuana too many times. There are other felons in sport in general and the NFL in particular who have done much worse, yet they play. They didn't touch, apparently, the untouchable.

Now, you may not be a sports fan. You should still be concerned. You see, its that darned quest for perfection again. What does it mean in our society that we so quickly ostracize people who have problems? I am against the use of illegal drugs. I really am. I hope that Ricky gets his life together up in Toronto. But in this case, there is more to this story. Why is it such a surprise when an individual like Ricky Williams decides that, just maybe, Holistic Medicine is a better career for him than football? Why is it such a scandal, in fact, that he must both be sued to return to the gridiron and grilled by Mike Wallace? Why, again, is violence off the field OK when marijuana use is intolerable?

Don't think this is just the NFL or pro sports, either. They are a business and try their darndest to both reflect and mold the norms of their consumers--us. We have a great deal of trouble when it comes to forgiveness. There are good reasons for this sometimes. We have been hurt, sometimes terribly. At other times, however, the rush to condemn seems to be unwarranted or selective--particularly when we move from the personal to the communal.

There is, after all, a difference between punishment and permanent condemnation (or damnation?). We may not be able to do anything about Ricky, but we can, of course, look at ourselves. When last I checked, anyway, no one was perfect. Besides, as long as you are breathing, you deserve a chance.

Jesus had something to say about this, incidentally. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. (Matt:6:41-42)

It would help, I think, if we ask ourselves from time to time who or what we are ready to forgive, and what burdens we still need to work on. Will we ever find the goodness in everyone? I don't know. Could most of us could do a little better looking for that goodness? You bet. Yes, we need boundaries. Yes, there are rules. But we are human beings trying our best let us try to live with patience and in love.