Josh Hamilton and the Gospel

For those of you who don’t watch television, listen to the radio, read the news or interact with other human beings, superstar Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers fell off the wagon—again. The former drug addict and alcoholic, who before a slip-up in 2009 found Jesus and sobered up, held a press conference in early February where he apologized for another drunken escapade with which all the details still remain unknown—and probably will given the threat of a hefty lawsuit.

In the wake of the announcement, the press of course has ripped Hamilton a new one. No one understands how a grown man with accountability—or what some call a “babysitter”—in place and a multi-million dollar career on the line could make this kind of mistake—again. After all, he has everything he could ever want: a wife, kids, success and all the money in the world. “Why can’t he just be happy?” “Why can’t he just be content?” “Why can’t he just behave himself?” These folks ask.

The most alarming dynamic of it is that everyone—the press and fans alike—knows Hamilton is a Christian. He makes that quite clear in his book, interviews and he even mentioned it in the press conference weeks ago, stating that the Lord is his recovery. So given the misconception that the Christian faith is about following a set of rules—instead of the reality that Jesus died because we fail to follow those rules—the situation has caused confusion and criticism. Hamilton’s faith has been called into question.

Now I respect Hamilton and believe him to be a man of faith, but his reaction to this mess has been disheartening. Sure, in that initial press conference, he seemed broken and sincere, and it’s clear that he knows he screwed up—big time. And as a middle of the road Rangers fan, I’m not even upset with his thoughtless words against the Rangers—that he doesn’t owe the Rangers anything—words that he has already taken back. No, I’m disappointed by the fact that, in his hell of a situation, Hamilton has had the every opportunity to preach the gospel, but he hasn’t.

You might be thinking, “But he apologized and took responsibility for his actions.” Yes he did, and he has also talked considerably about what he needs to do and doesn’t need to do and how he should have made smarter decisions about where he was at. And all those things are good and right, but where is the gospel in their midst? If Jesus plays such a big part in Hamilton’s life, where does Christ fit in to these awful circumstances?

Unfortunately, Hamilton hasn’t really said. He continues to tell us that, through his relationship with God, he is going to grow and get better, but that’s it. In the eyes of the world, his Christian faith compares to someone else’s prescription medication or drug rehabilitation. Jesus is the thing he believes in, and Jesus is what helps him. And, again, that’s great and all, but where is the gospel in it? Well, since Hamilton hasn’t told us—and I hope he does—I’ll go ahead and do it for him.

So do you want to know why Hamilton screwed up—again? Do you want to know why he still struggles despite having everything in the world? Because he is a sinner. He is a sinner just like you and me. On his best day, he still sins and falls short—he is still selfish and prideful. And Christ may be His savior, and he may trust Christ with his life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times he doesn’t. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times he, in a moment of weakness, thinks he needs something other than the Lord to give him pleasure and joy.

It’s in this reality—the depravity and sinfulness of man—that Hamilton has the opportunity to proclaim the gospel because it’s for this reality we need the gospel. Hamilton made a mistake, a huge mistake, but what he does and doesn’t do isn’t what defines his faith. What defines his faith is Christ—the fact that, in spite of his mistake and in spite of all the mistakes he will make throughout the rest of his life, Christ already paid for them on the cross. He forgave him and will continue to forgive him by grace through faith.

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