Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gifts, Choices and Aaron Hernandez

“Good burst off the line from the three-point stance into a four-yard hook route. Good pad level and leg drive.”
— from Aaron Hernandez’s Gut Check Scouting Analysis, December 2009
“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
(Psalm 147:10-11)
We all know (or know of) people who like to go to the track and drop a few bucks on the ponies. Under such circumstances, I can easily imagine taking delight in the strength of a horse, especially one that goes wire to wire. Why wouldn’t you? But back when the psalmist wrote, I suspect a soldier in a chariot would not be merely delighted by his stallion; that horse’s strength might well save his life.

I, on the other hand, take a fair bit of pleasure in the legs of a man.

Too bad, then, about Aaron Hernandez.

Wasted Potential

If you love NFL football or the New England Patriots you may well have taken pleasure, as I did, in watching Hernandez move on the field. He had good legs and even better hands, and achieved considerable early success in his NFL career before being arrested for the murder of Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

Oops, to say the very least. Human beings often put such a premium on physical attributes over character that it has become unfortunately common for sports stars to get a pass on minor and even major offences from an adoring public, pliable media and corruptible justice system. I have no idea whether Hernandez is guilty as charged but now that there’s a scandal, the media informs us that his character when he played for University of Florida was as dodgy as his scouting analysis was glowing.

Fortunately there are still some crimes too big to be glossed over.

The Fairness of God’s Metric

God, on the other hand, does not take pleasure in the physical attributes of men or women (which after all are his gift and are no credit whatsoever to those who naturally possess them, as well as being frequently temporary in nature). Rather, he delights in the evidence of moral attributes; in displays of character that are often by their nature comparatively quiet and rarely glimpsed by the public.

God takes pleasure, the psalmist says, in those who fear him (not in cringing servitude, of course, but by demonstrating through obedience their respect for his glory, his rightful position and his will). He takes pleasure in those who anticipate and find comfort in his unchanging love.

That is about as egalitarian a metric as any devout leftist could pray for, assuming there are any leftists who pray. It is the ultimate in equality.

It leaves out nobody.

Which Means ...

As far as God is concerned, you and I are on an absolutely equal footing with those who have IQs twenty or even fifty points higher than ours. God is not favourably disposed toward that which is merely intelligent, beautiful, powerful, elegant, youthful or well-raised. He does not care about our education, muscularity, cleverness, expertise or any other quality that can be produced over time under our own steam. If we love him, we matter intensely to him, whether we are old, sick, unintelligent, unattractive or otherwise unappealing to those who cannot see below the surface.

Man, we read, looks on the outward appearance. God doesn’t. The heart is what matters to him.

Of course we remain responsible for what we do with the gifts he gives us. But his delight is not in anything we do in our own natural strength. It is in the working of his own spirit in our hearts to produce Christlikeness and dependence on him.

The extent to which we revere God and trust in him is the extent to which he finds pleasure in our lives.

I wish I could run like Aaron Hernandez, but as anyone who knows me is well aware, that ain’t happening this side of heaven.

But to fear God and hope in his steadfast love? Anyone indwelt by the Holy Spirit can pursue that goal without worrying that it is beyond reach.

It’s a choice, not a gift.

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