A few weeks ago I wrote about the troubles of Lenny Dykstra, one of the iconic players on my beloved 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. A decade prior to Lenny Dykstra’s arrival to the team, the Phillies had acquired another player who played with the same all out hustle – get the uniform dirty – desire to win.
You may have heard of him, a man named Pete Rose.
Rose, obviously, is even more famous than Dykstra. He built his fame not only through his style of play, but also from many all-star appearances, multiple World Series championships, and ultimately becoming baseball’s all-time hit king. Pete Rose was a favorite player of many, including mine as a young boy. Rose, of course, also gained infamy for his troubles, even more so than Lenny Dykstra.
As baseball has slightly loosened it’s grip on Rose’s lifetime ban from the game, Pete has been allowed to participate in some ceremonial events. This upcoming weekend, the Phillies were scheduled to induct Rose into their Wall of Fame. Except that recent court documents were made public last week where it was revealed that Rose is accused of statutory rape from the 1970’s. While this type of accusation has been made publicly of Rose a time or two in the past, the charge is more substantial this time as it is being made through the justice system by an alleged victim. The Phillies, in turn, decided to cancel the induction ceremony due to the current circumstances.
This adds one more black mark, and a very grave one, to Rose’s list of transgressions, proven and accused. Even if the rape charges are incorrect and the girl was of legal age (16 in Ohio), Rose would have been still carrying on a sickening affair with a teenager while he was a married man in his mid 30’s with children of his own. Not a whole lot better.
As I had explored in my writing of Dykstra, we realize that none of us are good, even if we’re not as “bad” as a Lenny Dykstra or a Pete Rose. We all have our shortfalls for which we need a Savior. We desire, and righteously so, to be good and to do better than we have done. But ultimately, we rely on God because we’re not going to make it on our own.
At the same time, we must use judgment in how we handle people in some manners as we cannot just treat everyone the same. Yes, we are all fallen and all equally need a Savior. But there is also a need to fulfill roles and responsibilities during our work here on earth. When there is a need to teach and care for children, we dare not give that responsibility to someone who is a convicted child sex-offender or one who knowingly struggles with pedophilia. Baseball has decided that Pete Rose can no longer be involved in the game in any consequential manner due to his gambling on the game, because it says this poses a significant risk to the integrity of the game itself. And Scripture gives us a lists of qualifications that pastors and elders and deacons must meet. While not one of us fulfills these lists perfectly, they still serve to direct us towards who should be serving in such roles.
We are susceptible to unevenly applying these judgments and discernments. For those we didn’t like much at all in the first place, we are quick to lay down the law. Those who we don’t really know or have no affection for one way or another, we are often apt to follow an unbiased just judgment. And those for whom we have a special affection and/or have been our heroes, our judgment can often get quite clouded. I loved Pete Rose and Lenny Dykstra. I didn’t want to see the dirt that came out about them, and still continues to come out in some cases. There is nothing wrong at all with not wanting to see one’s heroes fall. But when one starts unrighteously defending them in the face of significant proof and evidence of their wrongdoing, then we’ve got some problems.
For the longest time, I had wanted to believe and probably did believe Pete Rose’s claims that he hadn’t bet on baseball. Unfortunately, if I had ever seriously examined the evidence in the first place, I would have seen the proof of his guilt. As time has gone on, Rose has piece by piece admitted to the gambling charges he was convicted of by the game’s leadership. Each step of the way, Rose would admit, that yes he did X, buy not Y. Later on, he would admit that, yes, he actually did Y, but he certainly never did Z. And so on and so on. Over the last few years, he has gotten to the point where he has now admitted to the large majority of baseball’s charges. Throw in some of his other criminal and immoral charges, and I have come to realize over the years that Rose has been a pretty wretched person and one who can not be trusted.
We do best when we can recognize our biases and work to overcome them when in need to make judgments. As hard as it may be, this best happens when we can overcome our instinctive reaction to incontrovertibly defend our heroes and loved ones when charges of substance come, or alternately to automatically convict our enemies when those same charges come, and instead think with an equitable mind and heart. In dealing with people on a personal level, we need to show care and compassion. But when dealing with the rightness and wrongness of situations and circumstances, we need to do our best to judge based on the facts and evidence along with the directives and guidelines we’re given in Scripture.
We need to do this because our judgments matter. In the whole scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter much whether or not I believed Pete Rose. For those in charge of the game of baseball, it mattered significantly more. All the more so when we are making a decision on who is going to teach and take care of our children. Or who are going to be the pastors of our churches or the spiritual leaders that we’re going to follow.
One would think we would no longer be shocked when our heroes fall, because it has happened so many times. Be it a sports star who cheated the game, or more seriously, a teacher who sexually abused one or more of their students or a pastor who falls to infidelity. Even more so when charges of wrongdoing continue to come out years later, sometimes even worse than the original charges. Yet we still often find ourselves shocked. Maybe that’s a good thing in some ways. But what is not a good thing is when we cast unrighteous judgments and make foolish decisions that put people in harm’s way because of unhealthy biases.
Lord, help us to overcome our faulty tendencies and give us wisdom when dealing with circumstances where there may have been significant wrongdoing and subsequently our reactions and decisions could have meaningful impacts on not only ourselves and the accused, but potentially many others, too.