Philadelphia loves the Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, and especially the Eagles. In living that area for seven years, I will never forget the summer of 2009. The Eagles signed Michael Vick to their team. He had just come out of prison for his role in dog fighting. His coming to the beloved Eagles had mixed reactions. Callers debated him on sports radio, and comment sections on online articles brought the discussion to the internet.

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Soon the season started, and Vick sat quietly on sidelines. Early in the 2010 season, Vick rose from a backup to starting quarterback. The Philadelphia fans embraced him. I would listen to the radio shows which once debated his arrival, now ecstatically cheer for him.

We love comebacks. Beyond the outrage of a person falling from grace, a part of us hopes for them to rise again. It’s not just in sports. Jean Valjean personifies it in Les Misérables. Bands after years of fighting will get back together. Some political figures even experience redemption.

Comebacks do not negate the evil perpetrated, but they call people to experience confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Why do we embrace comebacks? Because these stories embody the Gospel. Whether we realize it or not, we identify with the person who falls from grace. Their worst moment displayed for all the world to judge. Grace surprises us. Rather than condemning, Christ forgives us and redeems us. Putting ourselves in someone like Vick’s shoes realizes our need for grace and mercy.

Chuck DeGroat, author and professor, recently shared a quote on January 25th by John Calvin in the Institutes saying this:

The image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions. It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.

The idea of the image of God invites us to see others and ourselves as Christ sees us. Perhaps, this is why a falling out with a friend bothers us. We feel the need to right our wrongs. You and I long for freedom from guilt and shame. The hunger for forgiveness and reconciliation originates from God created us in His image.

Comebacks reveal the justice of wrongdoing, but the hope for redemption. You and I live in that tension. We look in the mirror recognizing our brokenness, but we find our value in the redemption God has given to us in creating and forgiving us. Experiencing the Gospel means realizing our comeback to the Father like the prodigal. Furthermore, seeing God’s grace bring comebacks in others.

In what ways do you hope to experience a comeback today?

Photo credit by David Straight.