FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — News broke last week that Josh Hamilton, the all-star outfielder for the Texas Rangers, had a “weak moment” and consumed alcohol. In the world of professional sports, alcohol consumption is a foregone conclusion among many fans and athletes. However, Josh Hamilton’s story is different.
After spending three years out of Major League Baseball for drug and alcohol abuse, Hamilton has publicly committed to avoiding alcohol, crediting his faith in Christ for helping him in his struggle. He readily acknowledges that he does things he regrets when under the influence of alcohol.
I am a huge Rangers fan, and Hamilton is among my favorite players. My heart beats a little faster when Josh steps to the plate because I know he can change the face of the game with one swing of the bat. I’ll never forget watching his stellar performance in the 2008 Home Run Derby. His performance — he hit 28 home runs in the first round — will most likely never be matched. He is one of the most talented players in baseball — and he plays for my team.
So what should we do when our heroes fail? What do we tell our kids who see their favorite player on the news? How do we respond when life throws this curveball?
First, we need to recognize that none of us are perfect. Scripture declares that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Despite our best efforts, we have no righteousness of our own (Romans 3:10–12). The difference between Hamilton and us is that our failures probably won’t make headlines. No one is watching our every move in order to report our faults on the local news. However, our sins — no matter how great or small — carry the same eternal consequences from God. We deserve death and hell for our sins whether or not we are anyone’s hero.
Second, we can rejoice that we can seek the forgiveness of God and those we have hurt just like Josh did. For over 10 minutes in his press conference, Hamilton told what happened. He admitted his sin. He admitted his deception to his teammate. He admitted that he had hurt others. He admitted that he had let his fans down. He confessed that he needed forgiveness. He called upon God to help him. Josh took the biblical route on this one. He confessed his sin (James 5:16) and has set out again to change his behavior with God’s help (i.e., repentance). When we fail, we need to take the same path to repentance.
Finally, we need to remember that men will always fail us. We must place our trust in God rather than men. Josh Hamilton has all the attributes we want to see in a sports hero when life is going well. Many people point to his faith in Christ as an example of how someone in the public eye can live a life of faith. However, that makes his failures hurt that much more for fellow Believers. The world is watching for Believers to trip up, and Josh’s faults become fodder for those who desire to deride Christianity. No matter how strong that hero appears to be, we can never put our trust in him to carry the banner of our faith. Psalm 118:8–9 admonishes us, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
On opening day in April, I hope to be at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington cheering my favorite baseball team to victory. When Josh Hamilton steps to the plate, I will cheer for him to succeed. He is one of my heroes — I wish I could run, throw and hit like him. However, he is not the object of my faith. He is a flawed human being just like me. I put my faith in Christ. I walk beside a fellow Believer like Josh knowing that I have faults too, just not as public.
Evan Lenow is assistant professor of ethics and director of the Riley Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at his website, http://evanlenow.wordpress.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email(baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).