Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Tragedy of Steve McNair

In about an hour from now, the funeral service for former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair will be taking place on the University of Southern Mississippi campus here in Hattiesburg. Because McNair grew up about 45 minutes away in Mt. Olive, MS, and because two of his sons live in Hattiesburg, our local news coverage has been dominated by the his tragic story.

And it is tragic: if you don't know, McNair was gunned down by his girlfriend while he was asleep on the couch in an apartment leased to him and used by them both. He leaves behind four kids and a wife as well as heart-broken family, friends, and communities who looked up to him. In many ways, it was a senseless act by a woman who was beginning to lose her grip on her life.

But it was tragic in a different way as well. As I was thinking about it this morning, McNair's death demonstrates the tragic consequence that comes from violating what Randy Alcorn calls "the purity principle": purity is always smart; impurity is always stupid. While most impurity does not end in a violent murder-suicide, the effects are wide-ranging, destructive, and devastating all the same.

The Book of Proverbs bears this out: "The lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander and she does not know it" (Prov 5:3-6).

Again, "Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless...and you say, 'How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation" (Prov 5:8-9, 12-14).

Again, "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished" (Prov 6:27-29).

Again, "With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he followers her, as an ox goes to the slaughter or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life" (Prov 7:21-23).

In many ways, McNair's tragic and untimely death causes these biblical wisdom texts to come to life. While sexual impurity make not bring someone to the grave in the immediate and horrifying way that it did McNair, the consequences are always devastating--Sheol, the grave, the place of the dead, lurks around sexual impurity.

Why is that the case? Because throughout the Bible and especially the OT, idolatry and sexual immorality/adultery go hand-in-hand. The case of Hosea's wife Gomer was the most graphic illustration of a basic truth: when we are not satisfied with the Triune God who has come near to us in Jesus, we inevitable turn our hearts to other idols who promise satisfaction. And frequently, those gods promise sensual pleasure and delight that can calm our aching hearts. But in the end those gods--the gods of significance and security, the gods of power and influence, the gods of self-sufficiency and Independence--cannot deliver anything but the grave.

Wisdom (a.k.a. the smart life) consists of fearing and delighting in the only God who can deliver on his promises: the Triune God of the Bible, the God who came near to us in Jesus Christ and comes near to us by the Spirit of Jesus. This God's steadfast love is better than life (Psa. 63:3); this love can satisfy the deepest longings which we have, both longings of our souls and our bodies.

The tragedy of Steve McNair is a tragedy played out on a small scale in so many of our lives, including my own: it is the tragedy of failing to be utterly satisfied in God himself, the only one who can fill the eternal longings of our being.


Frances Alston said...

Added to the tragedy of Steve's death is the way the media glossed over the fact that the man was BLATANTLY committing adultery. They called it "dating". Since when does a married man "date" another woman?? He took her to parties, courting her openly. How my heart aches for his widow and his four sons!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the media is glossing over this. Every one is trying to be accurate and respectful at the same time. the shock of such a talent who met his demise in a sordid way gives way to pause. I thnk we will see in the coming days more evidence of his demons, alcohol, women, gambling, etc.