I found an article this past week by Gary Cobb, a local Philadelphia sports radio personality. Cobb wrote in his article that Michael Vick, the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, was still not getting public acknowledgement for his change in behavior since spending 22 months in prison for his involvement in dogfighting and destroying animals. See the Cobb article here (http://gcobb.com/2012/07/21/is-forgiveness-and-redemption-out-of-reach-for-michael-vick/).
There was a similar thought in another series of articles this week discussing the former congressman from NY Anthony Weiner and his lovely wife Huma, who is an assistant to the US Secretary of State. Weiner is back in the public spotlight after resigning from his congressional seat over a photo scandal about sending inappropriate photos to young women. Here is one article referencing this story (http://globalgrind.com/news/anthony-weiner-huma-abedin-talks-family-life-photo).
Thankfully these two men have supportive families and friends who have worked to help restore some level of trust and forgiveness from the guilt of public shame. And those closest to them acknowledge the change of attitude and behavior.
But publicly many will not accept that there has been a change in behavior. There is skepticism as with Weiner that all of this publicly is staged so he can make a move to get his congressional seat back (see that story here – http://taylormarsh.com/blog/2012/07/seeking-redemption-a-democrat-worth-forgiving/). For Vick the skeptics say the book is simply a whitewash of his past so he can make a lot of money again. As Cobb suggests in his article, some people will never believe this man could change, and some will never release him from his crimes (another blogger stated this similarly here – http://www.bleedinggreennation.com/2012/7/19/3170172/peta-vick-should-never-be-allowed-within-50-feet-of-a-dog).
This lack of satisfying the skeptical public reminded me of the story of the Apostles and Jewish leaders in Acts Chapter 4. The Jewish leaders had been searching for the body of Christ since His resurrection and had come up empty. While publically pressing the Apostles to stop preaching in the name of Christ, there is no public acknowledgement that they cannot find the body. I have wondered why they could not acknowledge the fact that His body was not there. But publicly they would have to acknowledge that they were wrong. It seems that their power consisted of them being right all the time, at least in their own minds.
Another scripture reference that comes to mind in thinking about the lack of public recognition of private changes is when Christ three times speaks of the righteous action done in secret (Matthew 6 – verses 4, 6 and 18). Here Jesus says that the acts of faith that are done in secret will be rewarded openly by His Father. Perhaps here we can realize that by acknowledging our sins in secret (1 John 1:9) we also acknowledge that our forgiveness and cleansing is also done in the spiritual realms, not in a public forum.
I know that in my past I thought it was important to obtain public apologies or recognition for works done. Only a few years ago I sought to overcome misperceptions over mistake that were made, and to be recognized for using the talents that I had to benefit my employer. Public redemption seems to come only for activities that are perceived to be valued here in our time-and-space realm, like when an unfaithful husband falls from grace but then suddenly wins a golf tournament or becomes a philanthropist.
But this public recovery may not reflect a remorseful or transformed inner condition of the heart. When I acknowledge that my redemption is full and complete in the secret place (Psalm 91:1) there is no need to look for public redemption. My redemption will be pronounced publicly by Jesus Himself before His Father (Matthew 10:32) and rewarded openly by Him (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). Wouldn’t I rather hear my name announced by my Savior in the halls of heaven, then in the living rooms of men?