Late last week the Los Angeles Lakers knocked out the pesky New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Hornets were expected to get steamrolled by the two-time defending NBA champs, but thanks to the inspired play of their star point guard the team from the Big Easy pushed the series to a sixth game (out of seven possible).
Amid all the chest pounding, trash talking, and look-at-me shenanigans, the back-story of Chris Paul stole the show. Never mind that the 6-foot-tall point guard nearly averaged a triple-double (points, assists, rebounds) against the towering Lakers, his recent statements and demonstration of forgiveness are the stuff of legend.
The Missed Free Throw Heard Around the World
The story begins back in Paul’s senior season at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina. Paul was having an incredible year, averaging 30.8 points, 9.5 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 6 steals per game. But the most memorable moment of that storied senior season was a missed free throw.
The day after Paul announced he was committing to Wake Forest, his grandfather, whom Paul called his best friend, was brutally beaten to death by five youth. Two days later, in honor of his grandpa, a grief-stricken Paul scored one point for every year his grandfather lived—61 points for 61 years. Paul was fouled on the shot that gave him his sixty-first point, but he intentionally missed the free throw and took himself out of the game even though the state high school scoring record of 66 points was well within reach.
Years later, in a conversation with Rick Reilly, this grandson of a slaughtered granddad, said:
These guys were 14 and 15 years old [at the time], with a lot of life ahead of them. I wish I could talk to them and tell them, “I forgive you. Honestly.” I hate to know that they’re going to be in jail for such a long time. I hate it.
Forgiveness as Demonstrating Divinity
In Part 3 of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, King Henry says,
Let me embrace thee, sour adversity,
For wise men say it is the wisest course (Act 3, Scene 1).
The apostle Paul said,
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph 4:32; cf. Col 3:13).
It is one thing to embrace the bitter herb of adversity, to “count it all joy” (Jas. 1:2), and keep a stiff upper lip while walking through the broken streets of life. But forgiveness of this sort demonstrates divinity. The story of creation’s corruption in the early pages of Genesis is so horrific because creation was as God wanted it to be. And the crown of that creation, the human, was the reflection of all the glory and grandeur and goodness of creational intentions.
But whenever there are reports and testimonies of the likes of Chris Paul forgiving the murderers of his granddad, or the remarkable stories of forgiveness that surrounded the Amish school shootings, we hear echoes of that former glory, we see the glow of that former image being restored. To be wronged and violated and then not only forgiving those who wronged you but fighting for their betterment and good is the glory of proper imaging.
So in an environment that puts a premium on show, let’s honor and celebrate the humility and humanity of Chris Paul. And cry out for the creational intentions of God’s great creation to be realized in us and through us.