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Off-Topic: OJ Simpson Sevens Out October 6, 2008

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

No, I’m not going to turn this into a current-events blog–that’s not my topic. But OJ Simpson’s recent armed-robbery conviction has a lot of spiritual lessons involved, for Mr. Simpson, for me, and perhaps, if I may suppose, for some readers of my humble words.

For any new readers who might have somehow stumbled on this post, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for giving this a read. But I will caution you that this isn’t my normal topic: I write about hockey and spirituality, and current events are usually something I steer clear of. But this is something that I need to write about. Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to look around. Be advised, if you’re a hockey fan, that this site is a bit Capitals-centric.

Now, to the matter at hand.

Thirteen years ago, Mr. Simpson was cleared of murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. I personally thought, at the time, that he’d gotten away with murder, and I still do. And, like it or not, that trial thirteen years ago was the elephant in the Nevada courtroom. There is a sense in some quarters that this verdict is merely payback for Simpson’s acquittal thirteen years ago. And it’s very hard to dismiss that contention out of hand.

What, then, of second chances? I’m reminded of a short-lived TV show, mid-eighties, on the fledgeling Fox network. (Hard to believe Fox is nearly a quarter of a century old, isn’t it? But that may be a subject for another day.) The show was called “Second Chance,” and the premise was that a mid-80’s teenager had spent the rest of his days living a life not good enough for Heaven, but not bad enough for Hell. So, on his death, he was sent back to his teenage years to teach himself character and morals, and if successful, he’d go to Heaven. Inaccurate theology, to be sure, but it made for a funny (I thought) sitcom.

Mr. Simpson was given a second chance thirteen years ago. Justly or not, Simpson got a chance at redemption. Had he been a wiser man, Simpson would have seen how close he got to spending the rest of his life behind bars, and vowed to do better with the gift he had been given. He failed to do so, and he may now, it may be argued, be getting his comeuppance.

About a decade ago, a father wrote down a few hundred observations about life to pass along to his college-bound son. You may or may not remember “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” but that was it. I haven’t read it in a while, but if memory serves, one of the items therein was, “Give people a second chance, but not a third.” The Clark County jury which convicted Mr. Simpson seems to have concurred with that counsel. We’ll never know what was said in the jury room, but I’d bet there were probably a couple of jurors who didn’t want to have “OJ’s third chance” on their consciences for the length of their days.

Probably the best-known “second chance” in Scripture was a very early one: Adam and Eve. God was very explicit about the rules (Gen 2:15-17, NRSV):

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

That’s pretty black and white there, isn’t it? Put flatly, eat that forbidden fruit, fella, and you’re not gonna live to see tomorrow.

Most of you should be familiar with the rest of the basic story, even if you don’t believe it. That’s not my purpose here, however. The point is this: Adam and Eve both knew the rules–eating that fruit was a capital offense. And not, as in the modern American legal sense, a decades-long stay on death row: if they’d have eaten this on February 12th, they’d be pushing up daisies before Valentine’s Day. That’s the rule, right? Not quite. God, in His benevolence, gave them both a second chance. And a very, very big one, at that: Adam lived to be 930 years old, per Gen 5:5. Still, Adam did die; Divine Justice was delayed, but ultimately, it wasn’t to be denied. So Adam did get a second chance, but not a third.

Paul’s letter to Philemon is another example of a second chance. Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, had found his way to Paul, himself in prison. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, along with an epistle asking Philemon to welcome him back “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother–especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Phil 16, NRSV).

Escaping from slavery in those days was also, potentially, a capital offense. Paul doesn’t mention the Garden of Eden in his epistle, but the same spirit is arguably there: give this guy another shot, not because he deserves it, but because, if you think about it, none of us do. After all, …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,… (Rom 3:23, NRSV). But God has given us a second chance, as well. Consider:

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.–(Rom 6:20-23, NRSV)

Christianity, when you think about it, is all about second chances. Adam and Eve; Onesimus; heck, even you and me. All of us sin, and we deserve death for it; but, thank God, we get a second chance. It’s up to us if we want to accept it or not.

OJ Simpson got one heck of a second chance thirteen years ago. He squandered it, and now may have to spend a very long time behind bars.

I mentioned that there’s a lesson in here for me personally, and that’s this. I mentioned early in this post that I thought Mr. Simpson was a murderer, and I still believe that to be the case. Yet, I shouldn’t be celebrating this particular verdict. The correct attitude here, I believe, is not “about time he got what’s coming to him.” It’s more properly one of, “how sad, that someone who was given such a gift, has thrown it away.” This is not a triumph of justice. It is not a victory wherein the long arm of the law finally catches up to a thug.

This is, in a word, a tragedy. It is the downfall of a child of God who had been given so much, and who had already overcome so much in his life to succeed, in football and in broadcasting. It may prove to be the sad ending of a calamitous life.

It would be extremely easy to be elated at Mr. Simpson’s perceived requital. It would be very easy to put VNV Nation’s “Nemesis” on my iPod, and chant that “Judgement Day’s not coming, Judgement Day’s not coming soon enough.”

But spiritually, that’s not the right attitude. As difficult as it will be, I myself will be praying for OJ over the next few days, asking God to show mercy to His child, OJ Simpson. That’s not to ask for a light sentence: if Mr. Simpson’s conviction is upheld, then let the law be the law, and let Justice mete out whatsoever it will. What I will ask, is for Divine compassion and love to surround OJ, and remind him that even though he is behind bars, that God still loves him anyway–always has, and always will.

That’s my spiritual challenge over the next few days.

I need to do my October predictions for the Caps now that the NHL preseason is on the books, and I hope to have those up sometime before the curtain goes up in Atlanta Friday night.

JOHN 8:7


1. Rusty Shackelford - October 8, 2008

Very nice piece. I like your blog in it’s intended scope but you shouldn’t be afraid to stray “off topic”, clearly you have a lot to say about lots of things and you say it well.

2. CapitalSpirit - October 8, 2008

Rusty, thank you. I thought I was so far off topic that no one would be interested in this piece.

The reason I tend to steer clear of current events on here, is that ripped-from-the-headlines material tends to incite strong opinions on the opposing sides of whatever issue is in play. And when those opinions get too personal, it starts to get really ugly.

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