Speaking of Kobe: Too Soon?
When Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter Gianna, and others, the sports world came to a sudden halt. Not only did people grieve over the loss of Kobe, but tragedy was heaped upon tragedy as the names of other victims were released and the possibility of poor weather as a cause was suspected.
Then came the controversy.
The controversy was almost certain to emerge, but it’s timing took many Kobe fans by surprise. By now, you are probably aware of Kobe’s past moral lapse with a young woman in a hotel room and her claim the event was not consensual.
That’s really all I want to say about that.
What I would like to address is the complicated position we are in as Christians when we search for the right words to speak in such cases. At the risk of entering dangerous waters, I feel compelled to share the following thoughts:
Sexual assault should never be trivialized. I am old enough to have lived through a number of seasons in which this crime has been brought to the public’s attention. The present message seems to be that sexual assault is often overlooked or dismissed when powerful people are involved. Victims are afraid of reprisal by their attackers or negative public opinion. Of course, there are also those who falsely accuse, which further complicates the issue. In any case, sexual assault is not something that can be ignored.
Kobe Bryant made a terrible mistake when he was unfaithful to his wife. Consensual or non-consensual, his act was adulterous.
Kobe Bryant attempted to make peace with the people he hurt and with God. This doesn’t excuse what he did, but it does demonstrate remorse. After the hotel event, Kobe’s wife Venessa filed for divorce and the couple separated for two years. Ultimately, Venessa withdrew the divorce papers and she and Kobe reconciled. Kobe also re-engaged with his Roman Catholic roots and began to practice his spiritual walk again. Does this prove Kobe was telling the truth about the hotel event and his accuser was lying? Of course not. The doubts regarding the incident were something Kobe had to live with as a consequence of his actions. It simply shows us how he responded.
I believe it is possible for Christians to weep over Kobe’s adulterous act, show compassion for the woman who made the accusation and still respect Kobe’s basketball talent while grieving over the lives lost in the helicopter accident. We may have opinions, but we should grieve over the things that should be grieved over and rejoice over the things that deserve rejoicing. Kobe’s life was full of tragedy and triumph. It is unchristian to say he got what he deserved, but just as unchristian to ignore the scars he might have inflicted on others. Scars and grace are realities for those who follow Jesus. We cannot afford to “take sides” and say one or the other doesn’t matter.
If you are not familiar with the Christian walk, this is the paradoxical world believers walk in. We can’t expect to live in a sinful world and proclaim the message that sinners can be saved by grace without encountering some mental conflicts.
Here is where I land:
Acknowledge the seriousness of sin.
Comfort the victims of sin.
Mourn the loss of all life, and the potential that passes with it.
God’s grace doesn’t erase the scars sin leaves behind. But the scars don’t define His grace.
I know these are hard truths to grasp, and even harder truths to put into practice. But I believe they are true.
If they aren’t, I can tell you we are all in a lot of trouble.