Pull for redemption, restoration

Published 8:23 pm Friday, February 27, 2015

Why are we tempted to look at car wrecks? You know the moment: You’ve been creeping along, seeing the flashing lights up ahead, and finally it’s your turn to pass by the scene of the accident. Something within us makes us want to look.

It’s the same when some famous celebrity or athlete does something bad. Everybody wants to look in and see the mess they’ve made.

So it was this week in the world of two superstar baseball players, both of whom have wrecked their lives through the use of drugs.

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First, there was Alex Rodriguez, who reported to spring training with a horde of reporters and camera people dogging his every step. Rodriguez, or “ARod,” has ruined what should have been a Hall of Fame career because he chose to take steroids. Then he made it worse by lying about it and lashing out at others.

Finally, he hit rock bottom. He dropped his denials and his lawsuits. He returned to baseball this week after a yearlong suspension, and he seems a much more humble man.

The second player is Josh Hamilton, whose drug of choice is not steroids, but cocaine. A supernova talent who grew up in Raleigh, N.C., Hamilton was the first player chosen in the 1999 draft, right out of high school.

He was a straight-arrow kid. But then he tried cocaine and couldn’t stop coming back to it. He was suspended from baseball for drug use multiple times while still in the minor leagues. Finally he dropped out completely, living as a crack addict, his muscular frame reduced to skin and bones.

But through the love of his grandmother and his wife, he got sober, started playing ball again, made it to the majors and became a superstar. He also became a hero to those who have battled addiction.

Late this week the news broke that Josh Hamilton had relapsed and used cocaine again. He had not used the drug in about 10 years. He had a $125-million contract. He had a beautiful family. But the lure of cocaine was still there.

What a warning about the absolute horror of addiction.

The temptation is to just look in on these wrecked lives and pass judgment. Let me suggest that’s the last thing any of us sinners should do. If you are a Christian, you should offer these broken people your prayers, not your judgment.

In “Lord of the Rings,” Gollum is a creature who finds a ring that possesses an entrancing, addictive power. Like a drug, it destroys his life, turning him into a pitiful wretch.

Frodo’s assignment is to carry this ring and eventually destroy it. But while bearing the ring, he finds himself strangely drawn to it, just like Gollum.

One day Frodo’s friend, Sam, is talking about wretched Gollum, and he asks Frodo why he tolerates him. Frodo says, “Because I have to believe he can come back.”

We should be pulling for both of these players to come back. Not just to baseball, but to healthy lives. Just like Frodo could relate to Gollum, we should be able to relate to sinners, for we are sinners ourselves.

Jesus enabled us to come back by bearing our sins in our place, and rising again. Let’s pull for redemption and restoration.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.