Thursday, April 3, 2014


This week the Philadelphia Eagles released their top wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, who was coming off the best statistical season of his career.

The Washington Redskins quickly signed Jackson to a three year deal.

So why did the Eagles let him go? Did they do the right thing?

The Eagles have not yet explained their reasons for letting Jackson walk out the door. The timing of his release closely followed a report on linking him with "gang connections". But that's not the whole story as the team had allegedly attempted to trade Jackson since the trade period began.

Predictably, there are those sympathetic with the Eagles who believe locker room cohesion is important to team success. Since Jackson was apparently a distraction through his attitude and off field behaviour, the team is better off without him.

Others believe the team should have shown Jackson the same patience and grace they've given other players who found themselves in trouble off the field.

Seahawk player, Richard Sherman, even went so far as to accuse the Eagles of treating Jackson harshly because of his skin colour. He did go on to make the valid point that many people raised in the inner-city will have "ties" to gangs because that's the environment in which many of them were raised.

Finally, some people are concerned about what Jackson's treatment for alleged "gang ties" means for other players when teams decide they don't want to keep a player. Will this become the new catch-all accusation that allows teams to void contracts?

Churches often receive criticism for the way we treat people as they go out the door, or when their behaviour doesn't live up to God's expectations. Every situation is different and motivations are seldom clear.

In some ways it's nice to see football teams struggling with the same issues:
  • How much grace should we show the individual?
  • What's most likely going to help this person make the necessary changes?
  • Is the individual or the church/team more important?
  • How will this person's behaviour effect others in the church/team?
  • How will this person's departure effect others in the church/team?
  • Is the church/team being fair about this, or is there an unspoken prejudice?
  • Has the church/team consistently applied these standards, or are some shown favoritism?
  • Has the person done anything wrong, or are they just hard to get along with?
The Bible makes clear that some sins require that a person leave the church as long as no repentance is demonstrated. It also warns that not everyone should be welcomed into the church because some people will never accept the teaching of the church and will actually actively undermine core beliefs. Yet we're also told to love our enemies and be willing to forgive as many times as we're asked.

Paul gives his apprentice Timothy this sage advice regarding how to deal with Christians opposing his ministry, "Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

God wants us to adopt a "gentle" posture when dealing with sin and disruptive people in the church. It's also clear that the goal of this correction is always repentance and restoration. I really hope these goals are carried out more often in our churches than they are among sports teams.

So DeSean Jackson. May this departure from Philly provide a wake up call. If you need to make some life changes, I hope you do so. If you need to adjust an attitude, I hope you do so. And if the Eagles acted hastily and without grace, they'll sure miss you on the field next year!!

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