Over the past two years, NFL fans across the country have witnessed Johnny Manziel’s prolonged self-destructive saga. In his two seasons of professional football, The former Cleveland Browns quarterback partied, drank, and gambled himself out of the league.
After a stint in rehab to treat alcoholism and a plethora of media attention for his inability to curb his partying and gambling during football season, Manziel was cut by the Browns on March 11th, 2016. Pundits and fans alike wondered, “How could this young man continue to make such immature mistakes after repeated warnings and meetings with the Cleveland Browns organization, and why would he allow his behavior to cost him millions of dollars in salary and endorsements?”
I could wax poetic on the trappings of fame and the pressures of an NFL quarterback, but since the national media has dissected these storylines into tiny slivers, I intend to offer a different angle. For those of us with Christian convictions, does this story not sound like a familiar parable in the Bible? A young man cashes in his money big time yet blows his riches to smithereens because of his wild, untamed lifestyle.
I hope the Parable of the Prodigal Son came to mind, for Luke 15:13-16 tells a tale that remains a contemporary warning about the lusts of this world,
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:13-16, NIV).
Out of job, unwanted in the NFL, severed from his endorsements, and facing an indictment for domestic violence—Manziel has found himself in a modern-day famine of epic proportions.
So what can we learn from the Johnny Manziel’s story?
Without God, We Are Sure to Wander into Destruction.
Manziel has faced heaps of criticism for failing to demonstrate a hint of self-control. It was almost as if the whole NFL—coaches, players, owners, fans, and media members—collectively threw its hands up in frustrated bewilderment at Manziel’s immaturity.
Like the Prodigal Son, Manziel’s fall from grace captures the inevitable destination of rebelliousness toward authority and ultimately, God: self-destruction. If God is foreign to us, we will naturally do foreign things to good behavior.
Without God, We Will Remain in the Same Cycles of Sin.
While our vices may not be on public display as those of Manziel have been, each of us has sin in our lifestyles that we know we should not foster, yet we cannot help but perpetuate the same colossal failures. Even though our self-destructive behavior defies all logic to those around us, we still plod down the same path of sin.
At some point amidst the squalor and decadence, the Prodigal Son most likely came to the conclusion that his unbroken trail of immoral behavior was not the best path forward for his life. However, once sin entrenches itself into our thought patterns and attitudes. Though he was aware his own destruction, the Prodigal Son probably chose to ignore the pangs of his conscience and thus, he found himself working for a pig farmer.
With God, We Can Repent and Be Restored.
Because of our iniquities, we have all been humbled at some point. The question remains, do we humble ourselves before God or continue toward the edge of complete destruction?
The Prodigal Son made his choice, and never has redemption been so sweet:
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father” (Luke 15:17-20, NIV).
The key to restoration is repentance before God. When the Prodigal Son repented before his father (who symbolizes our Heavenly Father), the father not only forgave the son but restored the son’s position in the family and threw a lost-and-found party for him. This is the kind of grace God extends to each of us: we are cloaked in the filth of our sin, yet God forgives all when we deserved just condemnation and adopts us into his kingdom.
Johnny Manziel needs the love of such a Father and no amount of rehab or self-actualization will replace the grace of God. A real life Prodigal Son, Johnny Manziel’s circumstances beg for your prayers whether you are a football fan or not. I happen to be a dedicated Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and since the Cleveland Browns are the equivalent to a well-worn punching bag (sorry brothers and sisters in Christ who are Browns fans), I don’t have any stock in this fight in terms of being a fan of the Browns.
I just know that quite often, we watch Hollywood celebrities’ and top-tier athletes’ meltdowns with self-righteous glee; instead, lets get on our knees and pray for a young man who could reach a generation for Christ with the hard lessons learned from a life of rebelliousness along with the hope provided by redemption.
Some of you out there may share a similar story to that of Manziel. If so, I encourage you to do as the Prodigal Son did: cry out to God with a sincere heart of repentance and accept the salvation provided by Jesus Christ. If you do so, your story will skip from Prodigal Son to Adopted Heir, and you will never regret your decision to repent.
Kevin Cochrane is a nineteen year old writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males. For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email.