A Rose Not So Sweet
Pete Rose, the all-time most prolific hitter in big league baseball, has just published a second autobiography, with the help, of course (jocks not being the most literate of souls), of a professional writer. The date of its publication coincided with the Baseball Hall of Fame's announcement of its selection of two new inductees. Pete, nicknamed "Charlie Hustle," has been prohibited from any official connection with major league baseball because he allegedly bet on games while active as a player. For fourteen years he vigorously denied the allegations. But now he confesses the error of his gambling ways, that he did, in fact, bet on games in which he was a participant. Way back when he was outlawed from baseball, the Commissioner at the time stated that any reconsideration of Rose's eligibility for the Hall of Fame or managing a team would require, among other things, an admission on Pete's part of his gambling.
Now that Pete has fulfilled the requirement of confessing his gambling sins, he is publicly chafing at the unwillingness of many associated with baseball (Hall of Fame inductees, sports writers, a former commissioner, and a seemingly endless line of pundits) to welcome him at homeplate with open arms.
Let me add my two cents to the subject, since the subject has theological overtones.
There's a difference between confession and repentance. Confession is the admission that one has done something wrong. Protestant worship traditionally places near the beginning, after the adoration of God, a prayer of confession, that, in the words of one oft-used text, "we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and left undone those things which we should have done." Confession is good for the soul. It clears the air. It cleans the slate. It gets everything on the table in the bright light of day.
Pete Rose has confessed.
What is not apparent is that he has repented. Repentance means turning around and going in a new and better direction, away from the dead ends previously traversed. And repentance, according to John the Baptist (and Jesus?) means making restitution, mending what's broken, going way out of your way to make up for the wrong that was done.
Tears (think Jimmy Swaggart) are not necessary. They may persuade some of the genuineness of your sorrow. But just as many others, me included, may see the trickles of water on your cheeks as emblems of self-pity, not depth of remorse. Nor are many words of explanation helpful: they come across as self-serving attempts to lessen one's culpability. Better simply to quote the publican in the temple praying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
Then to be silent. Then no longer to plead one's case. Then never even to hint that you expect a little quid pro quo for your confession-repentance. Then just to go away, out of the limelight, no more fretting about the injustice done you.
I think of another man called Peter. No, not Marshall! I mean the fisherman. He never played baseball. And there's no indication that he gambled. But his transgression has been remembered for two thousand years by the vast majority of everyone everywhere who has ever lived. This Peter is the fellow who in the hour of trial did not stand by his friend, tried, in fact, to make it appear he didn't even know him, Jesus. When Peter came to himself, realized the enormity of his denial, he broke down and wept bitterly... in some dark corner alone. In that dark corner (it's not said, I'm just assuming) he made up his mind to ask no favors, pick up the pieces of his broken life, and set about doing the will of the Lord he had denied. This Peter has no memorial in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame; but rumor has it he was the first pope, and that he will be checking your entrance pass when you arrive at the threshold of heaven.
Pete would do well to follow the example of St. Peter. He might still never get to Cooperstown; but he would have a decent chance of getting past the gates of pearl.