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New NFL rules target domestic violence

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Woman with bruises (Credit: bertys30 via Fotolia)

With the Super Bowl finished, the Broncos and Panthers join the rest of the NFL’s teams in beginning to prepare for next season. A key part of that preparation is the NFL combine where the vast majority of college players with the potential to make it as pros will spend a week in Indianapolis trying to prove their worth. Every year certain players drastically improve their draft stock, and make themselves millions of dollars, because of their performance at the combine. Last year, Frank Clark, now a Seattle Seahawks linebacker, was one such player— his test scores and, more importantly, his interviews helped him rise from a late round prospect that many teams considered undraftable to a second rounder.

But Frank Clark wouldn’t have that chance this year. You see, the reason he initially sat so far down the draft board for many teams was his guilty plea following an arrest for domestic violence. Late last month the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, informed teams that prospects who have been convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault, or weapons offenses will be barred from “any league-related event.” Furthermore, as part of the new rules, every player must also consent to a background check before they can participate in order to make sure that such offenses are known. So while offenders can still be drafted, they will not be allowed to participate in the combine or be a part of the festivities when the draft returns to Chicago this April.

As Vincent told teams, “It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters.” For a league that still suffers the embarrassment of how it handled the situations with Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and others in recent years, the new rules come as a welcome attempt to rectify an all-too prevalent problem at both the professional and the collegiate level. Hopefully by reinforcing that there are real and potentially career-threatening consequences to their actions, at least some prospects will think twice before committing such heinous acts in the future.

But why is it that we so often need consequences to prevent us from doing something that we should know to be wrong? While I would hope that none of us would ever contemplate perpetrating domestic violence or sexual assault, we can all think of times where we’ve had the mental conversation about whether or not we would get caught doing something that we knew we shouldn’t do. The premise behind such conversations is that if we can be relatively sure that we can avoid external consequences, then we will seriously consider sinning.

Scripture is clear that consequence-free sin does not exist, even if it sometimes seems like it. As Paul tells the Galatians, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7­–8).

Every action we take contributes to one of those ends. And while there is absolutely grace for the times when we make the wrong choice, God’s eternal forgiveness does not remove the temporal consequences of our sin. So the next time you start to have that conversation with yourself about whether or not you’ll be able to get away with doing something you know to be wrong, remember the promise of God’s word that you will reap what you sow. Sow wisely.