Maybe you have seen the movie starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger that depicts the true story of James J. Braddock who miraculously became the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World in the 1930's, and was given the nickname "Cinderella Man".
The story goes from journeyman fighter who was injured to a nearly homeless man with a family who could not afford to pay their utility bill to giving up his 3 children, and then to be given a second chance to do it over. He has to seek public assistance (welfare in those days) to survive and then gets a bout as a stand in who fights the top contenders and surprisingly wins. In an incredible scene James stands in line at the public assistance office then pays back the $323 plus dollars the government gave him.
He goes on to fight Max Baer, the Heavyweight Champ who had actually killed two men in the ring from brutal beatings. His wife (RZ) doesn't want him to risk it but James has never been even knocked out, he has no fear, his faith is based on feeding, clothing and providing for his family. 35,000 people jam Madison Square Garden and in a fashion that trumps any Rocky movie, he wins the fight, buys a home in New Jersey with his winnings, then spends a yearj and a half as champ before losing to the title to the legendary Joe Louis.
Louis said Braddock was the most courageous man he ever fought, and we can see by his life that this man was courageous in all aspects.
How would it be today if we as Americans paid our government back for how they have helped us? How many of us would even consider doing it? Or, more to the point, how much courage would we exhibit to protect our own families and the family of God?
In Hebrews we see the "Hall of Faith" filled with Cinderella Men and women. They gave back in major proportions what they were so freely given. They responded to the call of protecting and serving with great faith and courage. When we look, we see ordinary people (like James J. Braddock) or (like Abraham or Moses) doing extraordinary things through faith. In our faith, it is in the real Heavyweight Champ who gave himself up for us when we deserved nothing but getting our lights turned off for poor behavior.
To those who have experienced the extreme blight of life, we understand a man like Mr. Braddock, we understand that Jesus would die a hero, but we may never understand why he did it for us, maybe it was for those other folks who were much better.
But what he said by his actions, is that he wanted to do that so we would do it as well for others, that we would pay back our debt by loving and laying down our lives for each other. Like the Cinderella Man, we found our glass slipper. Only ours was in the mercy and grace of spiritual redemption.
Let us all find a way to pay it back, not by being good, but by being great! (And, rent the movie, you will stand up and cheer)
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.