Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Better Model For Forgiveness: On the Louisville Scandal and the Model of Christ

I am a Louisville Cardinal fan. I am not ashamed of being a fan, but I will in no way defend them in light of the recent scandals that have plagued the school in general and the men's basketball team in particular. For those who may not know, in 2015 a Louisville woman published a book claiming she was paid by a staff member, Andre McGee who is also a former point guard alumnus, to perform erotic dances and even have sex with recruits and players.

At first, her story was largely written off as outlandish as most believed her story could not be true. Yet over a year later, many of her claims have been verified. We may never know the full story, but no doubt another sex scandal has rocked the University of Louisville.

Though a fan, I have made no effort to defend them in light of clear examples of harlotry.

With that said, I want to direct our attention to comments made by the head basketball coach, hall of famer Rick Pitino. Pitino has maintained that he was unaware that any of this was going on in the dorms of a building he named after his late brother-in-law who died in the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Rather, what the University of Louisville has argued and later confirmed by the NCAA is that Andrea McGee acted alone without any outside help.

Assuming Pitino remained unaware of any of this, he has been asked multiple times how he feels about his former player and staff McGee. Though admitting he spoke to him once in which the two mostly shouted at each other, he has now said he is ready to forgive him under one condition: McGee has to ask for it first stating, "The day that Andre asks for forgiveness, we will certainly do that. He’s gotta ask for it and he’s gotta communicate with us. We would all like to know why and someday we’ll find out."

It is this comment that is worth exploring for two reasons. First, as a Louisville fan, it is beneficial that I take stock of my own life. It is much easier to look at other people and other teams and criticize, rarely do we look at ourselves. I have been a Cardinal fan for many years and so it is spiritually important to watch myself and make sure that my loyalty to team does not trump faithfulness to the gospel.

Secondly, what Pitino models here is typical of how most others approach forgiveness. When it comes to forgiveness most of us act like nighttime drivers who refuse to dim our lights until the other car dims theirs. We would consider forgiveness only when those who have wronged us first come seeking it. That, however, is not the model Christ gave us in Scripture.

In Luke 23 Jesus is hanging from the cross unjustly while being mocked by his wicked detractors. No doubt this would be a justifiable moment for rage and anger. Yet, we discover the first of seven of Jesus's final sayings from the cross which is a prayer from Jesus for forgiveness for his enemies. What is striking about Jesus's prayer is that God answers it in the form of the thief (see vs. 43) and that Jesus, the offended one, initiates and extends forgiveness even without his enemies repenting from their wickedness.

This is the model we have throughout Scripture for forgiveness. As Christians, and Pitino is Catholic, we must always be quick to forgive and ready to reconcile. Forgiveness in no way diminishes the wickedness or sting of sin but rather allows us to hand it over to the one who will judge all sin justly and finally. Furthermore, refusing to forgive is enslaving and holding on to what others have done or said to us will affect us personally, socially, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The point, I believe is clear. At all times, be the first to forgive even when those who sin against refuse to repent or even refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing. Pitino is not your model. The Prince of Peace is.
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