Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chris Paul, Uncommon Forgiveness and the Gospel

A couple of weeks ago, I was catching up on my sports reading when an ESPN article by Rick Reilly caught my attention. It was a story of forgiveness involving New Orleans Hornet's star point guard, Chris Paul.

In 2002, five young men robbed and brutally murdered Nathaniel Jones - Chris Paul's grandfather.  In the words of Reilly, they "jumped a 61 year old man, bound his wrists, duct taped his mouth and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped".  You'll have to read Reilly's article to grasp the profound impact of this had on Chris Paul.  He loved his grandfather and was deeply grieved by the loss.

Thankfully, justice was served. The authorities caught the perpetrators and they are serving time for their brutal crime. End of story, right? Not so.

What makes this interesting is that in the years after the incident, Chris Paul demonstrated an unusual mercy and kindness to the men who took his grandfather's life. He has forgiven them and may even advocate for their sentences to be reduced. In Paul's own words -

"Even though I miss my granddad, I understand he's not coming back. At the time it made me feel good to know that they went away for life. Now that I'm older, when I think of all the things I've seen in my life? No, I don't want it.."

I don't know if Chris Paul is a Christian or even religious but his example offers a picture of forgiveness. Real forgiveness is always remarkable - it gets our attention - it moves us. Perhaps it's because we know how difficult it is to forgive in a broken world. We sin and are sinned against. We need forgiveness for own failings and we need to forgive others. Yet, it seems beyond us - more than we can bear. Perhaps because it is.

You know what's more remarkable than Chris Paul's story of forgiveness? The gospel. The good news that actually starts with the bad news of a rebel race turning from the all-wise, all-loving and all-powerful Creator God. It's a remarkable story that speaks of a sacrifice by Jesus Christ, God's only Son to bear the sins of all who trust in him.  A sacrifice so profound that it changes lives for all eternity. It brings the spiritually dead to life.

"And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Chris Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"

There's a reason why stories like Chris Paul's affect us. Perhaps it's because when we hear them, we get a glimpse of what divine mercy looks like. Deep down in our hearts, it reminds us of the mercy that we need every day.


Jimmy said...

wow, what a story! thank you for sharing it. It does make me much more grateful for the gospel and ponder how to respond to being sinned against. I hope to hear how this all turns out and the effect on Paul and those 4 young men

Every Square Inch said...

Jimmy - it is an amazing story and a picture of grace.