Friday, July 10, 2009

How do you do that funeral?

The headlines here in the Nashville area have been dominated in the last week by the death of Steve McNair, the former quarter back of the Tennessee Titans. In the last few days we've learned that he was killed by his mistress, who then killed herself, leaving behind his wife and four children who apparently knew nothing about this woman.

Since he was famous, and since the circumstances of his untimely death were scandalous, questions have been swirling around the mainstream media, blogs, and sports talk radio. What does this do to his legacy? How will we remember him now?

I've heard a slightly different version of this question tossed about by clergy and others in the religion business. They've asked, "how do you do this guy's funeral?" At a funeral we're talk about how good the deceased was, so those who have raised this question are wondering if we're just supposed to ignore the fact that he was cheating on his wife.

I can't help but wonder if raising this question in this way is a sign of the very poor understanding of grace that most of us have. We tend look at someone who was doing something wrong, if we're religious we might even say they were sinning (and make no mistake, cheating on your wife is a sin), and we assume that they didn't just do a bad thing, we assume that they're a bad person.

In other words, we assume that the power of sin is greater than the power of grace. Or at the very least we assume that for God's grace to really be effective we have to have purged our lives of sin, or at least the major ones (however we define what "major" sins are).

The truth is, though, that God's grace can be working powerfully in our lives and we'll still mess up. Grace overcomes the power of Sin, yes, but it's a lifelong process, not an instantaneous cure.

Steve McNair was a loving father, someone devoted to numerous philanthropic causes, and took time time to mentor young men like Vince Young, who grew up without a father in his life. The sin of adultery doesn't negate these good things. He was a good man who did a bad thing. Nothing less, nothing more.

So how does a pastor do this particular funeral? Steve's pastor, Bishop Joseph Walker, a man who clearly believes in "grace greater than our sin", gave a pretty definitive answer. Take a look for yourself:

(This is only part of the sermon. I encourage you to watch the whole thing.)

May we all have the courage to drop our stones of judgment and live like God's grace is greater than any sin.

1 comment:

B Smith said...

I thought Bishop Walker did an excellent job honoring Steve's memory and yet he did not ignore the proverbial elephant in the room. I would have liked to see him mention forgiveness not only for Steve but also for the woman who took his life. As you said God's grace is bigger than our sins. As I said on Darius' Facebook page last night, I don;t know if I would have closed with the Batman analogy, but I do understand the meaning behind it and it did serve as a powerful illustration, as Darius pointed out this tragedy was real and not just a fictional story.