Several sporting stars have fallen dramatically to earth in recent weeks.
We have learned unsavoury things, not just about Ulster rugby players, but about Australian cricketers and a television pundit.
Chronologically, Jamie Carragher was first to bite the dust. The robust and tenacious Liverpool and England defender had carved out a new career as a Sky TV football analyst when adverse publicity struck. Shortly after Liverpool had been defeated 2-1 by Manchester United, Carragher was driving home.
In the busy traffic, other motorists recognised him, and goaded him about the defeat of his former team. Showing an amazing childishness, he lowered the driver’s window in his car and spat at a passing vehicle in which a 14-year-old girl was seated. The driver of the other car captured the event on camera, and when the picture went viral, Carragher was suspended from his job.
Then Steve Smith, one of the finest batsmen in world cricket, and captain of the Australian test team, was found to have connived at a ball-tampering ploy, to gain an unfair advantage in a Test match in South Africa. A year’s suspension was the outcome for the nation’s idol....and life-long ignominy!
The actions of Carragher and Smith illustrate a word of Jesus; ‘men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned’(Matthew 12;36).
Let C.S.Lewis explain Christ’s claim. He wrote: “Surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only show what an ill-tempered man I am.”
And that’s where the preacher comes in. Henry Ward Beecher, was a popular pulpit orator in nineteenth-century America.
His own life was overshadowed by an unproven adultery charge, and he may have been speaking out of bitter experience when he remarked: “There are crimes (let’s substitute the word ‘actions’) that, like frost on flowers, in one single night destroy character and reputation.’
Let us all take heed!