Fallen Angel(?)

If you’re not a baseball fan you probably do not recognize the name Josh Hamilton. But if you have a son or daughter who plays baseball, or better yet who plays baseball and is somehow connected to the ministry of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) there is a good chance that you do know that name. Josh Hamilton is a professional baseball player, a power hitting outfielder currently with the Los Angeles Angels. He has had a rough go of it lately and was slated to begin this season on the disabled list while recovering from shoulder surgery. This however pales in comparison to his most recent predicament. On Wednesday Hamilton met with Major League Baseball officials and confessed to a relapse of drug abuse.

Hamilton’s past issues of drug and alcohol abuse are well documented. Complicating the issue a bit is the fact that Hamilton has also been quite outspoken in regard to his Christian faith, crediting it with lifting him out of his previous lifestyle of addiction. He’s been featured in numerous FCA publications, including posters that likely adorn the walls of many church-going Little Leaguers, and there are a host of internet videos of his testimony. This creates a unique set of questions for Christians. What are we, as parents, coaches, and youth leaders supposed to tell our budding athletes about Josh Hamilton now? Do we need to take his posters off their bedroom walls? As a fan, former player (albeit a marginal one at best), parent, and now a minister, these are just a few thoughts:

This is different. Explain that professional athletes and other famous celebrities getting themselves into trouble, particularly with drugs and alcohol, is nothing new. But for one who rather humbly, by celebrity standards anyway, speaks publicly of his relationship with Jesus let’s just be honest; it’s a little unnerving. It should bother us to be reminded how susceptible to our failures all of us are.

Confession is a behavior to be emulated. Point out that Josh Hamilton turned in Josh Hamilton. He wasn’t caught or found out. There was no cycle of accusation and denial. There is unlikely to be any arguing on his part about the severity of the repercussions that are to follow. By all accounts Josh simply mustered up his courage and called someone in authority over him. He told them what he had done and admitted he was wrong, and then asked for help. What more can one demand of a person than that? Read I John 1:9.

Sin always has consequences… While confession is courageous, honest, and quite frankly the most healthy thing to do, that does not mean that the confessor will be delivered from the consequences of the infraction. There is going to be a price for Josh Hamilton to pay. Literally he stands to lose millions of dollars. Besides that his reputation is going to take a hit. He will probably be off the field even longer than his shoulder rehab originally necessitated. It’s going to be painful in many ways. Read Numbers 32:23 and Hebrews 4:13.

…but Jesus overcame all sin. This is of course the most crucial point of all. If Josh Hamilton (or anyone else for that matter) was a Christian prior to his relapse, guess what…he is still a Christian after his relapse. It’s true. Make sure your kids understand this, whether they know who Josh Hamilton is or not! And please, let’s not even go down the presumptuous path of deeming his profession of faith “invalid” as a result of this latest fiasco. Faith in Christ we trust leads to forgiveness of all our sins, past, present, and most definitely future. If that’s not the case then it’s not good news, because none of us is perfect. Read Romans 7:21-25.

We can leave his poster up. I mean, Josh Hamilton is no longer a role model…or is he? The answer to that question may not be as simple as it first appears. Obviously I hope my son never finds himself in the spot that Josh Hamilton is in, struggling with a potent drug addiction. But if he does I would want him to act in exactly the same manner as Josh Hamilton has to this point. I would want him to confess, face and accept the consequences, seek help, and hopefully continue to express faith in Jesus Christ. I’m tempted more now than ever to find a Josh Hamilton poster myself and hang it in my office. If nothing else it would serve as a reminder to be in prayer for Josh and other high profile Christians who are just like us, save for all the people watching and waiting for them to mess up.