Friday, March 21, 2014

It's Lonely at the Top

As a Colts fan, the big football news this week is the arrest of the Colts owner, Jim Irsay, for driving while impaired. It seems his impairment was due to improper use of prescription pain medication. The police also found other pain pills in his car without prescriptions. He now faces four drug related felony charges.

As expected Irsay checked himself into a rehab facility following his release. Hopefully this represents genuine effort on his part to address his problems and not simply to curry favour with the judge before his next court date next week.

Irsay's arrest really puts the NFL under the spotlight. Over the last few years players have complained regularly about commissioner Rodger Goodell's harsh treatment of player indiscretions both on and off the field. Now, how will the commissioner treat one of his employers?

Because of Irsay's wealth there's a tendency to say that he's not a criminal, he's a competent person struggling with an addiction. This should be treated as a health issue, not a legal one. But a player caught in the same situation would likely face suspension in addition to mandatory treatment.

The legal system faces the same scrutiny. Again the perception exists that a rich white man with expensive lawyers will find a way to avoid jail, while a poor black man in the same situation would almost certainly spend several years behind bars.

Time will reveal how this plays out.

When it comes to justice God has a lot to say. In our summary of the last few centuries of Judean/Samarian history we often just say, "They turned away from God and worshiped idols so God allowed the Assyrians & Babylonians to destroy them and take them into captivity." In actual fact, not only did they turn from God religiously, but God sent prophets criticising a whole slew of social ills that arose as they left Him.

Amos 5 follows the form of a trial against the nation of Israel with God acting as the prosecutor. The charges are laid out in verses 7, 10 and 12. Verse 12 contains this summary,
For I know how many are your offenses
    and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
    and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Then Amos gives this advice,
Seek good, not evil,    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,    just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;    maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy    on the remnant of Joseph. 
I don't know how the Jim Irsay situation will play out. I'll be surprised if he does any prison time. I wouldn't really hold it against him if he doesn't, I presume he play the system fairly, just with greater resources.

But Irsay's circumstances remind us that we need to make justice part of our life values. We need not to throw away the key for someone because they're either super rich, or super poor. God expects that his people pay as much attention to ensure that the poor and underprivileged received justice as we do the rich and famous.

Amos 5 ends with a famous description of  God's dream for his people in verse 24,

"Here's what I want: Let justice thunder down like a waterfall;
let righteousness flow like a mighty river that never runs dry."
The Voice

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