I consider myself a preacher of grace. It’s my life verse, after all. I feel I am pretty good at receiving it (Lord knows how bad I need it!). I feel I am pretty good at talking about it. And, though there is work to be done, I feel I am pretty good at giving grace. At least I did feel pretty good about myself in the grace-giving department. I felt good about myself until Tom Brady preached at me. Yes. That Tom Brady.
A headline coming out of the sports world Sunday afternoon had nothing to do with sports. NFL star Antonio Brown exited the stadium during a game. He wasn’t hurt. It wasn’t halftime. He didn’t need a snack or a restroom. He had obviously had enough of playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He shed his jersey and pads and gloves, threw everything into New York Jets stands, made a gesture or two, and ran off. During a game. You can watch it here. When it flashed across my TV screen, my children within earshot, I made sure everyone within a five-mile radius knew what I thought. With all the judgment and condemnation and self-righteousness in the world I declared, “You see that kids? That is being selfish! That is being childish! That is being ridiculous! That man gets paid millions of dollars to play a game and he is going to go and act like that!? Incomprehensible!” It felt good to say it. It felt good to give my children a “visual learning moment.” It made me feel pretty good about how mature I am compared to that overpaid child.
Enter Tom Brady. Tom Brady, not the quarterback. Tom Brady the preacher. Later that day the media put microphones in front of Brady’s face and asked him what he thought of Brown’s antics. I was certain this pagan quarterback would take my position (side note: I have NO IDEA about Brady’s spiritual beliefs…but when you are a judgmental, self-righteous jerk, you assume everyone is pagan). If I (almighty preacher of grace) felt this way about Antonio Brown, surely his own teammate did! To my shock, Brady responded with these words: “I’ve known Antonio for a couple of years now, pretty closely. We’ve obviously been teammates and I would just say I love him, I care about him and I have a lot of compassion and a lot of empathy for the things that are happening in his life. It’s a lot of challenges we all face from time to time. . . I’m going to do everything I can to try to be a great friend and supportive to Antonio and the things he’s going through.”
A man known for winning Super Bowls preached to the man known for knowing his Bible.
A man known for being the GOAT of quarterbacks preached to a self-proclaimed GRACE preacher.
A man not known for a relationship with Jesus spoke Jesus-drenched words to man who claims to follow Jesus closely. Yet this man’s words and thoughts were venomous toward a fellow sinner, Antonio Brown.
“I would just say I love him.” “I care about him.” “I have a lot of compassion and empathy.” Oh my. Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner.
Tom Brady took me to church Sunday afternoon. I was sitting in my self-righteous pew (living room chair). I had declared how great I was in contrast to Antonio Brown. I felt pretty good and justified about judging him. Then Brady reminded me that Brown needs what I preach about all the time. Antonio Brown needs grace. Perhaps his antics are a result of having never received it? I modeled for my children precisely what every Pharisee Jesus rebuked in the Gospel’s did. I modeled for my children the air of the world. I modeled for my children that I only believe in grace when it applies to me, or when I think someone deserves it – which is grossly ironic if you think about it.
I am not sure where Tom Brady is spiritually. But when it comes to how you treat a fellow sinner – in this instance, he sure sounds a lot like Jesus to me. Brady’s right. Antonio Brown needs a lot of compassion and empathy. We all do. Thank you, Preacher Tom, for preaching grace to this grace-less preacher. You challenged me to give unto others (all others) what I am constantly receiving from the Lord.