1 Corinthians 9:25-27
25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
In a single moment, the life of elite athlete Aaron Hernandez changed forever.
Hernandez is spending his days, these days, behind bars instead of in them. A Massachusetts court has charged him with first degree murder and a host of weapons charges. Police say he shot to death a friend. While I’m no legal expert, I know this. If you’re gonna be charged with murder – the first degree kind is the worst to get.
Essentially, first degree murder means you planned it. It was no accident. No crime of passion. The gun didn’t just go off. You deliberately and willfully pulled the trigger and most likely were glad you did. In the cold bloodedness of a mindset few can comprehend, you took the life of another.
In this fallen world, murder is no stranger. But in the case of Aaron Hernandez, it’s baffling. Hernandez, #81 in your program and formerly #1 in the hearts of New England Patriot fans, was a starting and staring tight end in the NFL.
Do you have any idea how great of an athlete you must be, how dedicated to your craft you need to be, to be a starter in the NFL? It’s not something many can do. Being an athlete is one thing. Being a professional athlete requires a sense of purpose, few of us will ever know, much less comprehend.
In order to compete on the highest level of any sport you must be, what sports-niks call a “gifted athlete”. In other words, at birth, you were blessed by God with physical abilities far beyond those of mere mortal men. At some point you recognized that gift, and developed it to its full potential.
Gifted athletes who develop their gifts to full potential are usually paid millions of dollars a year. Aaron Hernandez was no exception. He was a multi-millionaire. He was loved by fans. Idolized by some and trusted by a few. Now that trust is gone, never to be regained.
Within minutes of his arrest, he was fired from his job as a professional football player. No more millions. No more fans screaming your name on Sunday afternoons in autumn. Now when the name Aaron Hernandez is spoken, it is usually preceded by “the people of Massachusetts verses.”
When the story broke – I was stunned. What? Murder? Why would a guy who has everything do such a thing? And therein lies the problem. Aaron Hernandez had money, fame, glory. But he lacked one important thing. He lacked God. He lacked friends who would find him as he strayed and bring him back to the fold.
When the story broke – I became angry. Then – jealous amazement gripped me. How could a guy who “had” it all, throw it away like that?
He was set for life financially, even if he never played another game in the NFL. “I wanted those gifts Aaron. I want to be set for life. You had all the worldy wealth a man could want and now you have nothing. Good! You’re nothing but a common criminal. A thug! An idiot!”
This poison flowed through my whole being until this morning. I was thinking about the photo many have seen of Hernandez, hand-cuffed before a judge.
A 23 year old boy, once part of a team, now stood alone. The look on his face a picture of what it means to be lost. Without hope. Standing in the quicksand of fear. Fear of what lies ahead. And in that moment , the image of Hernandez in court burning in my mind, everything changed.
In that moment, I saw me standing before God, hand-cuffed by my own crimes. Standing before my Creator. My Judge. A 64 year old boy, once part of a team, now standing alone. The look on my face a picture of what it means to be lost. Without hope. Lost and holding back the fear of what may lay ahead. Shaking at the thought of a death sentence.
Then, my Attorney steps up beside me. He petitions the Heavenly court on my behalf. In a moment that stuns me and causes me to fall to my knees in shock, my Attorney says “Father, forgive him. He knew not what he was doing. I will pay for Frank’s crimes. I will take the punishment Frank deserves. Spare this little boy Father. Put his burden on my shoulders.”
In a moment, everything inside me changed – I prayed for Aaron Henandez and will continue to do so. I can longer cast the first stone. Someday, Aaron Hernandez will stand before God. Hand-cuffed by his crimes.
Then, his Attorney will step up beside him and petition the Heavenly court on his behalf. In a moment that stuns him and causes him to fall to his knees in shock, Aaron’s Attorney will say “Father, forgive him. He knew not what he was doing. I will pay for Aaron’s crimes. I will take the punishment Aaron deserves. Spare this little boy Father. Put his burden on my shoulders.”
Why? Why would Jesus do this for Aaron? For me? For you? Why? Why? Why?
Because God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but have eternal life.
Today’s Song: “We Will Remain” – Dave Pettigrew. http://www.davepettigrew.net