Recently a New York Yankees’ fan was asked about the latest apology from Alex Rodriguez. He responded, “Everybody deserves a second chance.”
If you are scoring at home, you know that this chance for A-Rod is well beyond his second. He has already played the second chance card.
But the fan’s statement raises an important question. Do people really deserve a second chance? It may be that when you hear my question, you may think of Jesus’ teaching to Peter when Peter wanted to know if he should forgive somebody up to seven times. Jesus’ response indicated that Peter should forgive far more times than just seven.
However, that misses an important element in the question. It has to do with the verb in the fan’s sentence – deserves. To deserve something means that has been earned. By the very nature of a second chance, the answer has to be that we do not deserve that chance. It implies that the first chance was blown.
That being the case, what we deserve is judgment and/or punishment, not a second chance. Asking for second chance is not to ask for what one deserves. It is asking for mercy and grace. Mercy so that we are not continually punished for blowing the first chance. Grace so that a second chance is provided.
So how do we reconcile Jesus’ teaching to Peter with the idea of a second chance? The answer lies in determining which party is involved in the process. If we are the offending party, we deserve judgment. We ask or even plead for mercy and grace. We do so understanding that we do not deserve another chance. We can place no obligation on the person offended to forgive us.
If we are the offended person, then we have some obligation to extend another opportunity. Not because it is deserved, but because in doing so we reflect the character and nature of Christ. We have received mercy and grace and should extend the same to others.
When we properly understand what is deserved as the offender and the nature of forgiveness as the offended, we will have a better handle on this whole idea of second chances.