Michael Phelps has been in the news again. On September 30th Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence. This was not his first arrest for driving while impaired. Phelps' was suspended by USA Swimming for six months and will miss next year's World Championships. This is a black mark on Phelps' image and reputation that could potentially tarnish him for years.
In case you are unfamiliar; Phelps has won more Olympic medals (22) than anyone else in history. He has graced Wheaties boxes and made millions in endorsements. But there has been a dark side to Phelps' greatness. There have been rumors of PED use (never verified) and other arrests for DUI. It seems that Phelps' single minded determination doesn't extend to life outside the pool.
Tragically, Phelps is not the first and will certainly not be the last of our heroes to take a hard fall. There have been many who have followed the tragic arc that Phelps seems to be set upon. The recent spate of stories concerning domestic abuse and NFL players; performance enhancing drugs and baseball players leave us wondering with Simon and Garfunkel: "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?"
The truth is that Phelps and all our other fallen heroes are all human, just like you and me. None of us are able to overcome the allure of evil. There is none of us who are good. The Bible tells us that no one has ever been wholly good. People are fallen and need help. Yes, I'm going to say it: We've fallen and we can't get up (I'm sorry, I can't help it).
So before we rush out to condemn Michael Phelps or any other fallen hero lets remember that we are all capable of his transgression and so much more. Perhaps what Phelps and so many others need is not another dose of condemnation, but an understanding word and the gentle guiding hand of one who has walked the path before. Jesus instructed that "those without sin" should cast the first stone.
I wonder what we could be doing instead of ignoring Jesus' words. Perhaps our witness and our churches would be more effective if we started loving more and judging less. I'm not saying that we should turn a blind eye to Phelps' issues, or anyone else's for that matter. The church, and Christians in general, have become known more for what we're against than for our Savior. But perhaps we should learn to deal more redemptively than punitively.
At any rate, I will cheer now for Michael Phelps to get back on the right track...and not necessarily in the pool. Will you?