For those of you who do not know about or follow sports, we have a professional basketball team here in New Orleans called the Pelicans.
Last year, the former head coach of the Pelicans, Monty William, lead the Pelicans to the playoffs only to be let go by the team after being overmatched by the Golden State Warriors, who would eventually go on to win NBA Championship. I loved Monty, but some didn’t like his coaching style. He soon found a new job with the Oklahoma City Thunder and became an assistant on their coaching staff.
On Tuesday night, February 9th Ingrid Williams, Monty’s Wife, was driving with three of her children on a 40 MPH street when a reckless driver, who was driving 92 MPH North, lost control and stuck Ingrid Williams including her three children in a Chevrolet Suburban going southbound head on. Mrs. Williams was taken to the hospital where she later died. The driver of the other vehicle died as well on impact. Players on both the Pelicans and Thunder were devastated with the news because apparently Ingrid was a mother figure to many players. Many people sent prayers to the Williams family and offered their condolences while many others, when asked about it on camera, broke down in tears over the news. How could the wife of an assistant coach have such an impact on the players? I think the answer is found in who Monty Williams claims to be.
Ten days after her death, a service for Ingrid Williams was held. A video that has gone viral of her eulogy given by her husband has sent social media ablaze with words like “inspiring,” “powerful,” and the “world needs more people like Monty Williams.”
You can watch that video here.
The Gospel, Forgiveness, & Grace
As I sat and watched a man who was burying his wife, he did not fail to weave the gospel into the message so obviously that many who don’t even agree with Christianity still agreed with the message of forgiveness and grace. Here are some examples of tweets and comments regarding Monty.
Did you hear that? A lost man without Jesus openly admitted that he is envious of what Monty has. Church, can I submit this notion to you? The gospel you possess is exactly what the world is seeking; they just don’t know it (Romans 1:21-23). One reason they don’t know it is because someone hasn’t clearly and lovingly told them who Jesus is and explained forgiveness in a gospel-centered presentation (Romans 10:14-21).
Communicating Jesus to the World
The other reason is that their sin-sick hearts still willfully reject Jesus. Most people are so averse to hearing about Jesus because most of what they see of Christians is a “Political Jesus” who wants to legislate their morality. Can you imagine the different responses that would be trending on Twitter if Monty Williams said, “Gay people are worse than animals” like world-famous boxer Manny Pacquiao stated last week. Pacqiao wasn’t only verbally slandered, but he lost the endorsement of athletic sportswear superpower, Nike. Although Leviticus does group those sins with bestiality (Leviticus 20:10-27), one person (Monty Williams) opened hearts with a message of love and forgiveness, while one led with a graceless attack on the LGBT community. I think this is what Peter was hinting at when he said,
I would submit your “conduct” also includes how you communicate with a lost world. Jesus never attacked sinners without an offer of grace. He called them to repentance and told them to sin no more (John 8:10-11). We should be more known for what we are for rather than what we are against. Jesus wants their hearts first, then He will legislate their morality, not the other way around.
Monty shows a different side of the Christian message and people are immediately drawn to it. Why? Because even in our justice seeking hearts, we know true love is in forgiveness (Matthew 26:47-54). The reason why people are drawn to this is because God has engrained in every person his image and to some extent his character (Genesis 1:26-27). People who don’t know Jesus are watching this asking themselves, “How can this man ask for prayers for the woman and her family who took his wife’s life?” His answer is “We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness.” See, to Monty, serving Jesus and glorifying him is more important than being angry at the circumstance and that confuses people who don’t see the trials of life as a “light and momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Monty closes with “let us not lose sight of what’s important. God is important. What Christ did on the cross is important.” Even in the midst of loss and chaos may we echo Job as he cries out “Though he slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).