Joe Delaney vs. Aaron Hernandez: Giving life as opposed to wasting life

One of the more intriguing summer “happenings” has been former Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez’s quick fall after his alleged involvement in the murder of his fiancee’s sisters’s boyfriend Odin Lloyd. It is yet another example of a complete waste of talent and opportunity from a professional athlete. One of the up and coming multi-talented stars, who had the slim possibility of playing with his former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, will now watch football from a jail cell. Not sure if he’ll be able to Direct-TV or not. Who knows, if Tebow ever gets out of his mind that Tight End might present a better opportunity, Hernandez might have actually given up his position to Tebow.

Regardless, you can’t get a better example of throwing away your life, talent, and finances  then Aaron Hernandez.

I don’t make this point by way of comparison of me to him, and that I could never have done what he did. Pastors do similar stuff, and throw it all away too for murder or adultery (David wasn’t beyond that). And this particular pastor is not beyond that either. We could all go the way of Hernandez, in some way or another. There but the grace of God go I. And you. But that’s not what this post is about.

Instead I want to compare throwing one’s life away versus giving one’s life away.

I came across this amazing story of Joe Delaney, a perfect illustration of the latter.

Thirty years ago today, Chiefs running back Joe Delaney noticed that a trio of young boys had waded into a man-made water hole.  It contained an unknown deep end, and they quickly were in trouble.
As Frank Deford, then of Sports Illustrated, later explained it, “There were all sorts of people around, but only Joe dashed to the pond.  There was a little boy there.  ‘Can you swim?’ he asked Joe.
“‘I can’t swim good,’ Joe said, ‘but I’ve got to save those kids.  If I don’t come up, get somebody.’  And he rushed into the water.”
Delaney saved one of the boys.  Two drowned.  So did Delaney.
Joe Delaney, who had played only two NFL seasons, was 24.  He left behind a wife and three young girls.
As a rookie in 1981, Delaney rushed for 1,121 yards.  But he willingly sacrificed a bright future to help save three young strangers.

Joe Delaney didn’t waste his life, he gave it. I don’t know what motivated him as opposed to what didn’t motivate the other standers-by, who may have been able to swim much better. Perhaps it was Jesus? I don’t know. But he certainly followed in the footsteps of Jesus’ love, who reminded his disciples that, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Except, these weren’t friends; these were strangers. Pretty amazing, eh? How many people would do this 30 years later? This story is powerful and moving in and of itself. 

But don’t stop with this story, because there is a reason why we find such a story so moving. According to Jesus this is the quintessence of love. Now think about the fact that Jesus modeled his own teaching, going above and beyond, laying down his life for enemies (Romans 5:8). Inspired by Jesus’ sacrificial love for His friends-who at the time were rather enemies-we have all the motivation in the world to give our lives instead of waste our lives. 

If we’re not giving our lives away, sacrificing for others, Jesus actually makes the bold statement that we are wasting them (Luke 17:33)

Instead of trying to be like Joe or trying not to be like Hernandez, we can live as the drowning victim who was saved by Joe, at the cost of His own life. And if we regularly remember that we were ransomed not by gold but His precious blood (I Peter 1:18-19), the choice of giving instead of wasting will make sense.

Jim Eliot, martyred by Indians, thought it just made sense to give his life for others: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Oh for grace to believe this more.

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