“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Today’s reading is Psalm 103:8 with our word to describe God being compassionate. The entire chapter of Psalm 103 expands on this theme.
Over the last week or so since the terrible helicopter accident that claimed the lives of 9 people, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, most of us have taken in a lot of information not only about that day’s events, but about the lives of those on board, including of course Kobe. I must admit it’s been sobering for me not only because of the loss of life and thinking about their families left behind, but also because of what I’ve learned about Kobe since.
In 2003, Kobe was accused of sexual assault with charges later being dropped and the case settled out of court. While Kobe claimed innocence in regards to the assault, he admitted his guilt for his infidelity to his wife Vanessa. In 2012, he was photographed with his shirt off in a bar talking with 2 women while Team USA was traveling in Barcelona. While Kobe said a drink was spilled on him and he was waiting for his replacement shirt, I suspected, most likely similar to many others, he had not learned and changed his ways after his past mistakes. While I had come to really respect Kobe as a basketball player, and most of all his drive, competitiveness, and work ethic in recent years, I had all but written him off as a quality human being away from the basketball court.
Since his passing, much has come out about Kobe as a father and person, His quote, “I’m a girl dad.”, has lead to a social media frenzy of pictures of proud dads and their daughters with the #girldad tag. I’m not a big fan of private helicopters and planes and won’t get on one myself, as it seems like you always hear about them going down usually with no survivors. In addition to being saddened when I heard the news of the crash, I admit I had the passing thought…”Geez..do you really need your own helicopter..isn’t that even a little bit eccentric?” Later, I learned in an interview with Alex Rodriguez, Kobe said he bought the helicopter because he missed one of his daughter’s events after being stuck in traffic. He said in his interview he could also now fly to and from workouts and be home to pick up his daughters from school. His wife said she could easily pick them up and it wasn’t a big deal, but he said when you travel as much as I do…even 15 minutes talking to them on the commute home from school meant so much to him. Wow. I also read a story of him visiting a young boy with a fatal heart condition in the hospital and playing basketball with him for hours causing the boy to smile for what his parents said was the first time in years just a few days before his passing. The story is now told that Kobe did this in secret and specifically asked for no PR in what turns out to be not so rare event of him visiting the ill and insisting on no publicity.
While Kobe was not perfect and still made mistakes, it sure seems like he was in fact a good husband, father, and person and had changed. However, we know being a “good person” does not get you into Heaven. When I heard about his passing my first thought was, “I hope he knew Jesus and was saved.” The day after, I was pleased to learn he went to church that morning before boarding the helicopter. This was a good sign. Then, I heard an interview he did with Steven A. Smith in 2006. When Steven asked him about the 2003 incident and what he learned, he said….
“God is great. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You can know it all you want, but until you have to pick up that cross that you can’t carry, and He picks it up and carries you and the cross, then you know.”
Praise God! I was overjoyed that Kobe had learned that God is compassionate and asked for forgiveness. My next feeling was guilt for my judgement of Kobe all these years. Although it seems like he had changed, it wasn’t my place to judge and condemn him in the first place. I had not shown Kobe the same mercy and compassion for his past mistakes that God thankfully shows me in mine. I had wrongly judged Kobe’s mistake(s) as worse than mine. And the reality is, in God’s eyes, any sin separates us from God for eternity without Jesus and the cross. I need the cross as much as he did for my many mistakes. Although they may be different than his, God views them the same and forgives them all the same through the compassion of the cross. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” I sin each day, hour, and likely minute and need his mercy, grace, and compassion just like Kobe and all of us.
Matthew 6:14-15 reads, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Talk about a wake up call.
Kobe has taught many about drive, passion, and work ethic, but what he taught me is that I must extend the same grace, forgiveness, and compassion to my family, friends, and everyone which God also extends to me through carrying my cross daily. All I can do is praise God for his compassion and say, “Thanks, Kobe.”