You’re Not the Worst

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ― C.S. Lewis

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)

“O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life (1 Tim. 1:15-16).

PRAYER FOCUS: Getting Past the Worst Sins

It’s Football season again in the United States, bringing great joy and diversion to millions of Americans. Some prefer the professional excellence of the NFL, while others prefer the collegiate-level games of the NCAA. But the games to remember are often the end-of-season Bowl Games.

The 2009 Sugar Bowl was played on New Years Day 2010 in the New Orleans Superdome. It pitted the University of Florida Gators against the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. It was a memorable, if mismatched, game.

It was the final college game for Florida’s all-star and Heisman Trophy-winning senior quarterback Tim Tebow, who had become well-known not only for his stellar football skills but also for his inspiring life story. His parents were Christian missionaries to the Philippines. His mother had refused to abort a high-risk pregnancy that resulted in his birth. He was home schooled. Tebow was noteworthy for the unusual practice of writing a different Bible verse on his eye black for every game.

That night there was considerable buzz among both fans and commentators about what Scripture Tim Tebow would select for his final NCAA game. When the Florida team took the field, it was: John 3:16. Tebow went on to throw passes for not one, but two, NCAA records. Conservative Christians swooned.

Meanwhile, virtually unnoticed by the chattering media, Cincinnati’s starting Tight End, wearing jersey number 19, took the field with “1 Tim. 1:15” written on his arm. His name was Benjamin Guidugli of Fort Thomas, Kentucky. While Tebow was proclaiming “for God so loved the world,” Guidugli was declaring God’s great mercy on “the worst of all sinners” and engaging in a grind for yardage against the stingy and hard-hitting Florida defense.

Now, we aren’t impugning Ben in any way. We have no idea of his life and/or struggles, or why he chose to wear this Scripture that night. From current information, Ben seems an exemplary young man (he’s on Twitter, if you’d like to see for yourself).

But there was a story there that night in New Orleans that the world missed.

There are similarities between Tim Tebow and Ben Guidugli. Both came from Christian homes, whose parents are still married. Both are highly visible in their Christian witness and view their media exposure as a platform for ministry. Both have gone on to play football for the NFL. Both have recently become free agents, as both got cut from their respective teams a couple of weeks ago (Tebow from the Patriots, Guidugli from the Giants).

Both young athletes have stood in desperate need of God’s mercy and saving grace. Just like Paul confessed to Timothy in this week’s Lectionary Scripture. Just like all of us.

In the first letter to his protégé Timothy, Paul makes his trustworthy statement by concluding that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners “of whom I am Chief”. The message to us is that the things which are evil and undesirable in our lives do not make us unacceptable to our Father-God.

Alcoholism can be overcome. Gambling habits can be changed. Drug habits can be beaten. Addiction to pornography can be broken. Infidelity can be forgiven. Christ Jesus came into the world to save us from sin, and from fatalism about sin. He came to stop us from accepting, “That’s just the way I am.” He came to raise us up above the way we were when He found us.

1 Timothy 1:15 is a great summary statement of the whole Gospel. We thank Benjamin Guidugli for so boldly wearing it.

Unless their free agency is abbreviated, neither Tim nor Ben will be on the field next Sunday, but we bet we know where you’ll find them—in the pews, in their homes, pouring their hearts into the endeavor that really matters. Worshipping God Above and praying that God will direct and rule their hearts. And then they might go catch a football game or two. Please join us in praying for them and cheering them onward.

It’s Monday Morning. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

P.S. Please pray for Syria.

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