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Michael Vick and redemption

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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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is helped from the field after running into one of his teammates during their NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, Georgia, September 18, 2011 (Credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell)

Is there a more divisive name in football than Michael Vick?  His performance in Sunday night’s homecoming against the Atlanta Falcons is still making headlines this morning.  When a tackler spun him into one of his offensive linemen, Vick bit his tongue and suffered a concussion.  He did not return to a crucial game his team eventually lost.  Speculation continues this morning regarding his long-term viability and injury history.

But that’s not the reason fans are so divided about Mr. Vick.  Drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, he reached the Pro Bowl three times and led his team to the playoffs twice.  Then he pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal felony charges regarding his participation in an illegal interstate dog fighting ring, and spent 21 months in prison.  While incarcerated in Leavenworth, Kansas, Vick filed for personal bankruptcy protection.

Upon his release, he signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles as their third-string quarterback.  After winning the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2010, he signed a six-year, $100 million contract with the team last month.

Those who know Vick say his imprisonment humbled him in transforming ways.  Legendary coach Tony Dungy, himself a very strong believer, visited Vick in prison and found him a changed person.  At the news conference announcing his contract, Vick said, “Kids have an opportunity to see that you should never count yourself out.  But at the same time, don’t put yourself in a position where you’ve got to make your miraculous comeback.”

In a single statement, Vick captured the essence of forgiveness and redemption.  When we confess our sins to God, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  He will then “hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19) and “will remember [our] sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

Why, then, shouldn’t we sin and confess, then sin and confess?  Because actions produce consequences.

If you drive a nail into the wood on my desk, I can remove the nail but the hole remains.  Michael Vick has returned to stardom in the NFL and is now by all accounts a man of genuine humility, but his name will always be associated with the horrific dog fighting ring he supported.

God loves you and stands ready to forgive and forget every sin you confess to him.  But it is better not to commit that sin at all, for its consequences will live long after your guilt fades.  Michael Vick had no idea when he engaged in dog fighting that I would be writing about his sin today.  What temptation are you considering this morning?