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Kobe Bryant and the extravagance of God's grace

Wallace Henley Portrait
Wallace Henley |

The Kobe Bryant tragedy reveals the revolting irony of the woke culture and its ceaseless campaigns for secularism and relativism. The woke among us denounce absolutism, especially in its religious form, and decry judgmentalism as puritanical injustice, but sadly have forgotten the enormity and extravagance of grace.

No one can be more religiously accusatory as an irreligious woke leftist.

Two thousand years ago the religious establishment was appalled that Jesus of Nazareth claimed the authority to forgive the sins of others. Eliminate belief in the Judge who is qualified to declare that mercy triumphs, and there is no grace.

Through the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote that

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NLT)

No wonder the woke among us who deny transcendent love can be so graceless.

And that brings us to the tragedy that struck Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others who died in the helicopter crash on January 26.

The smoke had hardly cleared before a Washington Post reporter tweeted a reminder of a 2003 case in which Bryant was accused of rape — later dropped. Another individual who classified himself as a “moral philosopher” wrote that we should not “pretend that the world has lost some kind of moral hero” in light of Bryant’s alleged sins. A starlet from Hollywood — the woke holy land — lamented the grief experienced by Kobe’s family, but in the same expression called him a “rapist.”

The graceless wokes want us to know how “honest” they are in looking at the “whole” man. The woke today with their inquisitional sermonizing at grand award events where they celebrate themselves and their self-righteousness remind one of the religious establishment Jesus described as being clean and sparkly on the outside while grimy on the inside. (Matthew 23:25)

“Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling,” wrote the Washington Post scribe.   

The extravagance of grace is both shocking and amazing. No one can stand before the Judge of the universe without it. The good news of the New Covenant that God makes with humanity is that the Judge Himself has come down from the bench and entered the execution chamber in the place of the offender.

The Cross of Christ is not merely a symbol of horror but of the extravagance of grace.

But this business about God removing our sins from us as far as the east is from the west and remembering them no more when we cast ourselves on His mercy — check out Psalm 103:12, Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12 and some ninety-six other Bible passages — is just too much for the woke to stomach. Our wrongdoings must always be remembered and declared because in the cult of wokeness grace has little or no place.

News reports tell us that Kobe Bryant took communion Sunday morning before heading to John Wayne Airport. As a faithful Catholic Kobe saw the wafer and wine as pointing beyond themselves to the Christ who had brought grace into the world by taking the just penalty of our sins upon Himself and extending grace to all who would willingly receive it.

Simple logic comes into play here: If God is truly God then He is the Absolute Being, and thus all His attributes are absolute. His justice is absolute, and His mercy is absolute.

When these two absolutes collide like matter and antimatter, the outcome is the Cross. The vertical beam reaches up from earth’s soil to Heaven’s transcendent holiness and the horizontal beam is like outstretched arms bidding us to enter in and accept the grace of Christ’s atonement.

Absolute justice meets absolute mercy, resulting in absolute grace.

Secular wokeness has no such beauty. Scowling starlets, simmering journalists and indignant academics proclaim the legalisms of woke culture with the sternness of the worst of the puritans they relish condemning.

Grace is a gift, says the Bible. God is a lover, not a rapist. In that regard. Jesus says that to look on a person with lust is the equivalent of adultery. (Matthew 5:27-30) Hollywood and its temples of wokeness do their best to see to it that we have ample opportunity to fall into the “the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life,” which comprise the essence of all sin. (1 John 2:16)

Who is innocent? Where is there hope? If there is no Cross there is only judgment.

So, on that Sunday morning, Kobe Bryant presented Himself at the altar at his church, freely opened his mouth to receive the wafer and wine, signaling his dependence on Jesus Christ and the absolute justice-mercy of Golgotha.

And a little while later the helicopter crashed, but, on the unbreakable promise of God’s eternal Word, Kobe entered Heaven on the wings of Christ’s grace.

May all the woke awaken to the extravagance of grace with all the rest of us sinners.

Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House, and congressional aide. He served eighteen years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Wallace, the author of more than twenty books, now  does conferences on the church and culture, church growth and leadership. He is the founder of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership Degree.

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