Unless you’ve been under the proverbial rock, you’ve heard that Michael Vick was awarded a very nice contract with the Philadelphia Eagles for his work in the NFL. I think the story of Michael Vick is one that shouts “Grace!!!” from beginning to end. Here’s why:
A Self-Made History:
Vick played college ball for Virginia Tech and wound up third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. His sophomore year found Vick heading to the pros. He was the 1st overall pick in the NFL Draft – picked up by the Atlanta Falcons. He was the first African-American quarterback to be picked 1st overall. He spent 6 years playing for the Falcons. He was impressive. His rushing yards led quarterbacks across the league. His arm was incredible. He was living the high life. Multi-million contract, possessions, making all the right plays – it seemed as if he was living his American dream.
A Sordid Happening:
In April 2007 Vick was implicated in a illegal dog-fighting ring. This was not a one-time mistake, but an event in operation for over 5 years. Roger Goodell not only barred him from the league, he stated that Michael Vick’s actions were
…not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible…
Vick pleaded guilty to felony federal charges and ended up serving twenty-one months in prison and two months of home confinement. He lost his salary, his endorsements and ended up filing chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. The Falcons sued Vick to recover almost $20 million of his previous $37 million contract.
Vick was at a point where he was at the end of himself, charged, realized his guilt, convicted and sentenced for his crime. Speculation abounded that he was finished as far as his NFL days were concerned. There was no hope for Vick.
A Gracious Goodell:
After Vick completed his sentencing, Tony Dungy took Vick under his wing and began to mentor him. Roger Goodell allowed Vick the chance to play in the NFL once again. Don’t let that sentence slip away so quickly. Vick was a convicted felon, convicted of heinous crimes and could end up tarnishing the league once more. The very fact that Goodell even allowed Vick the time of day was an act of grace.
A Grateful Vick:
Vick’s return wasn’t all peaches and cream. He signed a $1.6 million contract with the Eagles in 2009 with a no guarantee clause. He also found himself on the fringes of trouble repeatedly. But Vick didn’t abuse the grace he was given. He practiced hard and played hard. Even then, depending on the source, you won’t find Vick on a top ten list of quarterbacks in the NFL for 2010. And then in February 2010 the Eagles put the franchise tag on Michael Vick. Yesterday, August 29, 2011, the Eagles awarded Vick a 6 year, $100 million contract with $40 million guaranteed.
A Portrait of Grace? How?
No matter how well we “succeed” in life: in career, relationships, finances, parenting, hobbies, sports, etc, we all end up falling short of God’s standard of holiness. The only hope we have is realizing the depth of our depravity and and the guilt of our sin. Our holy God condemns us to an eternity apart from Him, effectively “barring us” from his presence. We are sentenced to enslavement to sin and eventual eternal death. We are unattractive in this state. Washed up – useless – with no future. But that same God, the One who condemned us, also showed us grace. He gave us Jesus Christ, a holy substitute that bore the Father’s wrath and our sentence of punishment on himself, on Calvary’s cross. As a result, we are once again welcomed into the presence of God. We are free to live life and enjoy it’s abundance. We are lavished with riches beyond what this world has to offer, in spite of our performance. God’s grace extends into our deepest darkness, cleanses us with the blood of his Son, seals us with his Spirit and leads us in his Truth.
I’m reminded of that when I see Michael Vick, because I see myself: A Portrait of Grace
3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us,not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:3-7 esv