It’s been two weeks since basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a California helicopter crash. The Superbowl paid homage with a moment of silence. His former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, immortalized him by giving every attendee a replica of his jersey at the next home game after the tragedy. Bryant has almost universally been praised for greatness on and off the court. But a few journalists with long memories, have brought up the issue of his Eagle County, Colorado rape charges back in 2003. That occurred near the community where Laura and I were living at the time. Bryant was there to receive treatment from a noted orthopedic clinic, which also operated on my knee.
In conversations taped by the police, Bryant admitted his actions, which included forcing perverted sex and leaving his victim with lacerations and bruises. The official reading of the police report, which is in the public domain, describes lewd and extremely perverted actions by Bryant. The matter was finally dropped when the young victim decided not to testify. Her later civil suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money and a public apology, issued by Bryant. He said the act was consensual. Kobe went on to become a megastar with little public censure. He eventually amassed a fortune of nearly one billion dollars, something that certainly would be questionable in today’s “Me Too” environment.
I come neither to exalt or condemn Kobe Bryant. Who knows if he really turned his life around? He is generally praised as a loving father and husband who through philanthropy and mentoring helped many. The question that remains unanswered is this: Should the total of his life be judged by the best or the worst of his actions? Would any of us want our lives to be summed up by the most foolish or sinful thing we’ve done? Rape is an especially egregious act, and one must wonder how his victim feels today, seeing Bryant lauded with few detractors. But consider the apostle Peter; what if he’d been judged all his life by his actions when the cock crowed at his denial of Christ?
There is no indication that Kobe Bryant, who was raised Catholic, was a religious man. He did attend 7:00 a.m. mass the morning of the crash. And what of his victim? How was her life scarred? What of the people all of us have hurt walking through life? It all comes down to grace, God’s grace. That’s the lesson of Ephesians 2:8-9, that we are all saved by the mercy of God. And it’s what He has done for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. Millions of dollars won’t buy off God on judgment day, and neither will statements carefully crafted by expensive lawyers. You, me, and Kobe Bryant will all face the Eternal Referee’s call on the court of life. And what will matter is whether our actions on earth, however trivial or horrendous, are under the blood that Jesus shed at the cross.