January 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
So here are my reflections on Lance Armstrong and his recent admission of using Performance Enhancing Drugs to enable his athletic achievements:
First, I don’t know him – Stating the obvious, I know, but important – We tend to base our feelings for public figures on athletic triumphs, cinematic moments and political feats. But we don’t know those people. The nicest ones publicly, may be monsters behind closed doors, and the harshest may be most tender. Lance Armstrong is an image on my TV screen and online newswire. He isn’t my friend nor my enemy. He is as real to me as Spider Man. The people who matter to him see him differently than I imagine him to be.
Secondly, I’m not his judge – The last thing I want to do is expose my garbage by going after someone else’s! Oh, yeah, hey, I’m as opinionated as the next person, and if you engage me in a conversation about Armstrong, I’ll offer tons of commentary. I have strong feelings about whether or not he should compete again. Not to mention that as an ex-ball player who had next-to-zero athletic abilities, I am disappointed by the whole enterprise of cheating in sports. But what I can’t do – and won’t do – is decide his fate. He is judged by his own actions and words. Just as I am. Whenever a public figure falls it is natural to fit the mitigating circumstances into the injustices and disappointments we have experienced in own lives. We have invested something into their personae, and have sort of embraced them for ourselves – this is our own idolatry, which often leads to harsher reactions – I get this. But do I know the sincerity of his admission? You know the answer.
Third, I am also not his Liberator – Those of us who preach and teach God’s grace can be prone to quickly admonish natural reactions to disgraced public figures, almost to deny honest responses for fear that rushes to judgment will obliterate the gospel. But that isn’t my job. A public admission is good for a public moment. And because I don’t know him (see above), I have no idea of the damage he has caused others. This is important. Insensitivity to one’s victims is equally insensitive to the gospel. Hey, God’s grace can’t be real for me if it isn’t real for Lance Armstrong. This is what the apostle Paul consistently weaves into his teachings. But it is God’s grace, not mine. And it would be presumptuous and damaging – to Armstrong’s victims, and to Armstrong himself, for me to make some kind of pronouncement as to his current standing. Regardless of my opinions or pronouncements, anyone in Armstrong’s position has a long journey of healing. If I am not his judge, then I can’t possibly be his liberator. But, along with every other unfinished soul, I would welcome him to our church community with the very hope I live in, that Jesus offers a path to restoration.
Here is a good question to ask yourself: After the natural revulsion (I’d be lying to say I didn’t feel disgust), what direction do your desires lead you into? The answer reveals more about your story than Armstrong’s. But like him (whom I don’t know, won’t judge and can’t liberate), we are the product of many secrets, struggles and regrets. And our comfort is that we have been set free by the only One who can liberate us, and whose desires were found in the direction of the Cross.
Friends, why would we not wish this good news on all?