NFL running back Adrian Peterson was in the news again, today. This time regarding the resolution to the case against him for badly beating his four-year-old son with a switch (a thin tree branch). Peterson has agreed to plead "no contest" to a lesser, misdemeanor charge. In exchange, the felony charges against him will be dismissed; he will avoid jail time, pay a $4,000 fine, and perform 80 hours of community service.
Being a frequent listener to sports talk radio, the commentary I heard today about Adrian Peterson was primarily negative. Most of the sports reporters and radio show hosts were perturbed that Peterson got off with such a light sentence, considering the extent of his son's injuries. Many cited the privilege that comes with being an NFL superstar along with the best lawyers wealth and prestige can buy as factors in Peterson receiving such a good deal. The pundits were also quick to point out how different the outcome of the case would have been had Adrian Peterson been nobody from nowhere.
As I prepared for this afternoon's open-air preaching at the Newhall Metrolink Station, I knew I wanted to use the Adrian Peterson story--a story that would be on the minds of many people, whether or not they are sports fans--as a springboard to the law and the gospel. As I searched the Scriptures for a text that would be fitting for the story and, more importantly, for the proclamation of the law and the gospel, I came across Proverbs 28:5, which reads: "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely."
Moments after I started preaching, I was interrupted by an older Hispanic man. It was a friendly, supportive interruption. He was not a heckler. He was several years my senior, wearing dirty, gray, cotton sweats. Over his should he carried a large duffle bag. The man appeared homeless, but he didn't appear that he had been on the streets for two long. I could tell by the condition of the man's eyes and the slight slur in his speech that he had been drinking.
When I finished preaching, I introduced myself to the man who, for the length of my sermon, stood only a few feet from me with his gaze fixed upon me. His name was Burt.
No sooner did I introduce myself to Burt that he began to sob. After declining the offer of a meal, Burt agreed to sit down with me on a near by bench. For the next 25-30 minutes, we talked.
By the providential, gracious will of God, by the end of the conversation the retired deputy sheriff and the life-long heroin addict and ex-con would say goodbye with a hug.