By Ken Weliever
“Sports builds character” is a cliche that I have often heard, truly believed and frequently parroted. However, a sign that I recently saw in an athletic locker room may be more nearly the truth in many cases – “Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” And, if “character is what you are in the dark,” recent events further underscore that there isn’t a lot of character left in the professional sports world.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the superstar point guard for the L.A. Lakers, has the HIV virus. You don’t have to be a sports fan or basketball fan to have heard this news. It has been headline news on all major newspapers, on television newscasts, talk shows and sports programs as well as the feature story in many magazines, including Newsweek and Sports Illustrated. However, much that has been written has left me with an empty and hollow feeling, Some of it has made me sick.
Since “Magic” Johnson is a hero to many young people, and because he is now thrust into the spotlight as a spokesman for HIV and AIDS, we need to look at this from a moral viewpoint. I believe there are some spiritual lessons we can learn from this situation.
After Johnson announced to a stunned press conference and a shocked viewing audience that he was HIV positive, David Stern, NBA Commissioner, commented, “This is a very courageous and heroic person and a very heroic act.” While you have to admire the man’s courage, forthrightness, and optimistic attitude, I don’t believe we can properly label him a “hero.” “Magic” Johnson is an immoral man with a sexually transmitted disease.
Patrick Buchanan, a syndicated columnist and TV commentator, correctly observed, “Magic’s public life – his dedicated team play on the court, his unstinting support of good causes – was admirable. But a private life of sleeping around in every city the team visited is not a ‘role model’ for black youth; it is the road to hell.” Dave Anderson writing in the N.Y. Times also concurred by saying, “Magic is a victim, not a hero. Sympathize with him as you would anyone who has contracted the dreaded HIV virus.” But, Johnson is “. . . hardly a model or ideal to anyone with a sense of sexual morality.”
In an exclusive Sports Illustrated article, “Magic” tells his own story. Among many revealing things he says, “I am certain that I was infected by having unprotected sex with a woman who has the virus. The problem is that I can’t pinpoint the time, the place or the woman. It’s a matter of numbers. Before I was married, I truly lived a bachelor’s life . . . I did my best to accommodate as many women as I could – most of them through unprotected sex. . . Now, I’m pleading for every athlete and entertainer who has also been ‘out there’ to get tested, from now on, to practicc safe sex.” Does this sound like a man we should crown as a moral hero for our youth to follow?
Sex Outside of Marriage Is Sinful
“Magic” is publicly advocating that young people practice safe sex. What he is saying is tragic. We need to hear and heed the words of the apostle Paul who warned, “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:19). “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). The only “safe sex” is inside the bond of marriage.
I am a basketball fan, and a fan of “Magic” Johnson. It’s hard not to like such a gifted athlete whose smile captivates your heart. But, Johnson is sending young and old alike the wrong message. As Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist wrote, “How wonderful it would have been had Magic Johnson stood before the press and the watching world and said, ‘avoid sexual looseness like the plague. Every other sin that a man commits is done outside his own body, but this is an offense against his own body.”‘
Your Sin Will Find You Out
The warning Moses gave the children of Israel before entering the promised land – “be sure your sin will find you out” -rings so true in this case. We may fool people for a while, but sin usually has a way of exposing us. One thing is for sure, We can’t fool God. The wise man said, “For God will bring every work into judgment including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Eccl. 12:14).
“Magic” Johnson lived a promiscuous life-style. He lived n the fast lane. Now he’s been caught for speeding. Everyone of us needs to learn this valuable lesson. Sin will finally reveal our true character, either in time or in eternity.
There Are Consequences to Your Actions
“Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7-8). There are three important points from this passage: you reap what you sow, you reap more than you sow and you reap later than you sow.
“Magic” Johnson has sown the seeds of sexual immorality and now he is reaping the harvest of sexual disease. It has compounded itself many times over in a virtual “death sentence.” But, it has taken him at least twelve years to reap the harvest. Sin is like that. It seems so innocent, so much fun, and not nearly so naughty as “narrow-minded” preachers proclaim it to be. Yet, harvest time arrives and then its produce is so much more hideous and hurtful than anything we could ever imagine.
Patrick Buchanan observed, “We are an infantile people. We want to ignore traditional morality, but never pay the price.” Writing concerning the moral state of our country, Senate Chaplin, Richard Halverson, said, “We demand freedom without restraint – rights without responsibility, choice without consequences, pleasure without pain. In our narcissistic, hedonistic, masochistic, valueless preoccupation, we are becoming a people dominated by lust, avarice and greed.” Sad, but well said.
Young people and old people, we must return to an old fashioned, Bible-based morality that is ordered by our Creator, commanded by Jesus Christ, and endorsed by the inspired apostles. We must learn to look at people in the sports and entertainment world for what they really are those who can amuse us, entertain us and thrill us – not as role models for morality, and certainly not as God’s spokesman for right and wrong.
Let us be the light of the world and the salt of the earth and show the world that it is possible to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” Let us learn to control our passions and emotions and not allow our fleshly appetites to dull our senses, master our minds and finally cause us to lose our souls in eternity.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 2, pp. 37, 50-51
January 16, 1992