On the base paths to repentance

We don’t have many high-profile role models these days when it comes to genuine repentance, but I may have come across one last week thanks to a social media link shared by former Major League star Torii Hunter. The link took me to a video by Dee Gordon, one of those up-and-coming professional athletes who was riding the wave of his talent and hard work until he tripped over his own poor choices.

That’s not breaking news, of course. Celebrities (including sports stars) fall off their pedestals so frequently that we hardly notice. It’s like politicians telling lies – we don’t condone it, but we’ve come to expect it.

In this video, however, Gordon did something I rarely see from celebrities in his situation – he apologized. I’m not talking about the typical PR-driven, carefully crafted written apology that tends to admit nothing, blame others, and promise no change. I’m talking about what appears to be a real, heartfelt apology that’s born of repentance and leads to true forgiveness.

I don’t know much about Gordon. I know he plays second base for the Miami Marlins. I know he’s a really good player – a Gold Glove winner on defense who he led the National League in hitting (.333 average) and stolen bases (58) in 2015. I know he’s 28 and looks like he’s about 18. And I know he was suspended for 80 games after he tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs.

If you dig a little deeper into his story, you find that Gordon probably just wasn’t careful enough about knowing what was in the supplements he was taking. At 185 pounds, he’s known for speed, so it’s not like he was bulking up to hit more home runs. But he didn’t make excuses or blame others. He owned the mistake.

I don’t know if he’s a follower of Jesus or if he was as sincere in his apology as he came across. But when I watched his video, I saw someone doing pretty much what Jesus told sinners to do:

Step 1 – Confess (to God and to anyone you’ve offended). “Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, ‘I have sinned’.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Step 2 – Repent (turn from sin). “Repentance involves deliberate turning from sin to righteousness” – Kenneth Barker, NASB Study Bible

Step 4 – Go in sin no more. “Repenting is what happens inside of us that leads to the fruits of new behavior. Repentance is not the new deeds, but the inward change that bears the fruit of new deeds. Jesus is demanding that we experience this inward change.” – John Piper

I’ve never played professional baseball, and I’ve never been suspended from any sport for using performance enhancing drugs. But, like Gordon, I’m a sinner. We’re all sinners. The question is, how do we respond to our sins? Do we continue to live in them? Or do we grow like Jesus and live in forgiveness?

I might never feel the need to repent publicly like Gordon did, but I hope I never let my pride and ego prevent me from taking those key steps toward restored fellowship with Christ: Confess, repent, and stop sinning.


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