Former NFL great Deion Sanders is a brother in Christ. Sanders understands the curse of celebrity and how it can ruin your life for a season or forever. Deion was one of the few to defend Vick prior to the announcement. I have to respectfully disagree with Sander’s attempt to help us understand Vick’s mindset.
This is all the result of perspective. What a dog means to Vick might be a lot different than what he means to you or I. Hold on, don’t start shaking your head just yet. Listen to me. Some people kiss their dogs on the mouth. Some people let their dogs eat from their plate. Some people dress their dogs in suits more expensive than mine, if you can believe that.
And some people enjoy proving they have the biggest, toughest dog on the street. You’re probably not going to believe this, but I bet Vick loves the dogs that were the biggest and the baddest. Maybe, he identified with them in some way.
I understand that dog fighting has some cultural context. But the practice is simply wrong. Abuse of God’s creatures is sin. Period. I hope that Deion Sanders will use his influence to communicate that message to anyone who will listen.
Personally, I have alternated between repulsion and an odd sympathy for Michael Vick. I cannot imagine how a heart could become so hardened and so dark that inflicting pain and death on a helpless creature is acceptable. I pray that Vick will open his heart to the Lord and repent. His reputation will take years to rebuild. The amazing grace of redemption is that he could become a new man in Christ in a moment.
It was the repulsion and anger that I felt so easily that bothered me so much. Regular readers of the humble ramblings know how much I love dogs. I have written a number of blogs about man’s best friend. So it was somewhat predictable that I immediately flew into a rage toward Michael Vick and his cruel cronies when the details came out. But a long walk with Jesus (and my Labrador Hannah) caused some uncomfortable truths to rattle around in my mind.
My rage against the cruelty toward these helpless dogs was understandable. But where is my rage and passion for others who God describes as “the least of these?” Jesus describes how the righteous will be separated from the unrighteous on the day of judgment. The unrighteous were condemned not for a huge laundry list of sins that American Christians deem disgusting. They were condemned for not caring.
For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (Matthew 25 - NLT)
I am quick to condemn Michael Vick and the culture that allows dogfighting. But where is my outrage for “the least of these?” Where is my caring heart?
When I walk by the homeless in major cities across America…do I care?
Where is my outrage for girls and boys trapped in sexual bondage and prostitution living here in my own city of Dallas, Texas? Do I care?
Where is my outrage that creatures more helpless than these dogs are torn apart in clinics with partial birth abortion?
Where is my outrage and caring heart for the victims of genocide in Darfur?
Why is my heart broken by dogs that are drowned and not broken by babies dying of Aids in Africa?
This was not a guilt trip that God’s Holy Spirit took me on as I walked this morning. It was simply revealing that my heart is far from pristine and I need to humble myself daily before the throne of grace. I am quick to rank Michael Vick’s sin as being far worse than mine. But to a Holy God all sin is the same. I needed a Redeemer. So does Michael Vick.
The resulting gratitude I feel for being redeemed should manifest itself in caring about the “least of these”. John kicked my butt this morning with these words written a couple of thousand years ago.
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. (1 John 3 - NLT)
And that is why so many people don’t do Bible study. It is hard to be self-righteous when you read passages like that. At least it is for me. God took my prideful feelings of superiority toward Michael Vick (I could NEVER do THAT!) and revealed my ongoing and desperate need for Him. I started the morning wanting to throw Vick and all associated with him under my judgment bus and then back up. I finished the day praying for Michael Vick and asking how Jesus can use me to minister to the hungry, to strangers, to the naked, the sick and those in prison. If I feel no compassion – how can God’s love be in me? That question will ruin a good walk.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.