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Kyle Williams, Billy Cundiff and forgiveness

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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New York Giants wide receiver Devin Thomas (L) recovers a fumble by San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams (R) during overtime during the NFL NFC Championship game in San Francisco, California, January 22, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Jeff Haynes)

If Kyle Williams had not fumbled two punts, the San Francisco 49ers might be playing in this year’s Super Bowl.  If Billy Cundiff had not missed a 32-yard field goal, the Baltimore Ravens might be joining them.  This morning, there’s more to both stories.

It seems the scoreboard operator in the Baltimore-New England game had the wrong down displayed, which caused Cundiff to rush his preparations and may have contributed to his missed kick.  Meanwhile, New York Giants players are now admitting that they targeted Williams for vicious hits earlier in the game because they knew he had suffered four concussions in the past.  They claim that these hits contributed to his fumbles.

Does this new information change the way you view Cundiff and Williams?

A counselor once told me that there is often one thing we don’t know about other people that would help us understand their behavior.  For instance, is it fair to blame people for mistakes they don’t know they’re making?  Last weekend I was walking in our neighborhood when I came upon a broken sprinkler head imitating Old Faithful at Yellowstone.  None of the geyser was landing anywhere near the lawn it was intended to water.  My first reaction was to blame the homeowners for such waste, but upon reflection it became obvious that they didn’t know what I knew about their sprinkler system or they would have fixed the problem.

In that moment, this question flashed into my mind: What do other people see in my life that I don’t?  What mistakes, failures, and follies are clear to you but not to me?  Yesterday morning, one of Janet’s curlers attached itself to the back of her blouse.  She couldn’t see what was visible (and rather humorous) to me.  Later that day, I followed an SUV onto the Dallas North Tollway–its fuel door was wide open, the gas cap swinging in the wind, but the driver was oblivious to what was obvious to me.

Two lessons follow.  One: I should offer more grace to others than seems warranted.  It is our tendency to judge others by their actions but ourselves by our intentions.  “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings” excuses my rude behavior but not yours.  Many of the imperfections I see in others are not their choice.

Two: I should seek more mercy for myself than seems needed.  My Father is aware of sins I have forgotten or ignored.  David, who knew something about sin and forgiveness, asked, “Who can discern his errors?”  Then he prayed, “Forgive my hidden faults.  Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me” (Psalm 19:12-13).

Because I commit both “hidden faults” and “willful sins,” every morning I ask the Spirit to bring to my mind anything I need to confess to God.  He never fails to show me a failure I would not have recognized.  As I confess what comes to my thoughts, my Father forgives me and restores me to himself.  I commend this “moral inventory” to you.

Who needs your sympathetic grace today?  Is it possible that you need your Father’s mercy more than you know?