“I’ll burn my stillerz gear in my yard and i’ll remove my tattoo from my leg!”
If you’re not “from around here,” the statement likely makes no sense. But if you’ve ever spent time in western PA, you’re aware that our little slice of the world has a culture of its own.
Ever since the glory days of the late 70s and early 80s, a high percentage of western Pennsylvanians have devoted themselves to cheering on their beloved Pittsburgh Steelers (stillerz). Make a fall trip through the area, and the black and gold team colors will stand out almost as much as the colorful display of foliage.
Sadly, Steeler Country recently fractured as the team signed Michael Vick to backup Ben Roethlisberger. Michael Vick. The same Michael Vick who plummeted from football stardom because of his hedonistic involvement with animal abuse. The Michael Vick who spent almost two years doing jail time for his crimes.
Is this any way to honor National Dog Day? Perhaps.
By all appearances, Vick is a changed man. He’s even a spokesperson for the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) in helping to champion their cause against dog fighting. According to the HSUS website:
Despite our utter disgust with what Vick did and our leading role in making sure he was convicted and punished for his crimes, we decided that shunning Vick forever would do no good for any animal. Vick paid $1 million for the care and rehabilitation of the dogs at Bad Newz Kennels. Now he contributes his time and his voice to attacking the problem by reaching out to inner-city youth.
Not everyone is convinced—and certainly not the Pittsburgh’s Fan Morning Show (93.7) caller who is about to undergo the painful process of having a Steelers tattoo removed.
Practically everyone acknowledges that Vick’s transgressions against dogs were heinous. The real question is whether or not a person can be redeemed.
The connection between Vick’s signing and the recent Ashley Madison hack is powerful. Reports are now beginning to surface of possible suicides by some of the alleged adulterers. Clearly, they too felt that their situations beyond redemption. How terribly, terribly sad.
Our world has things backwards. Evil doers are considered unforgivable and beyond redemption in this world, but God is expected to universally approve of all people when we cross into the next life. Or is it more about expecting God to conform to our paradigm than us to His?
I can’t begin to express my thankfulness for God’s redeeming work in my life. The only reason I have hope for tomorrow is because God graciously forgave what I did in the past.
No matter what we’ve done, no matter where we’ve been, no matter who we’ve been with, we all have hope for a better tomorrow because of God’s gracious gift on a terrible wooden cross.
In a way, Vick’s story of redemption mirrors that of Ben Roethlisberger. These types of situations don’t make me mad; they give me hope.
Stories of redemption overflow with meaning. They remind me why I choose to embrace God’s amazing grace in lieu of harsh judgmentalism. They help me to know that even if I fail today, God’s loving grace is available for a better tomorrow.
I’d prefer the Steelers have no need for Vick to take the field this fall, but if he does, I’ll be cheering him on!