Deflategate and the purpose of punishment

Chad Thornhill

Chad Thornhill
May 14, 2015

Can a Biblical understanding of punishment shed light on the debate over Tom Brady and Deflategate?

May 15, 2015

Chad, you're talking about one of my pet subjects here, and so I simply have to give you kudos for your healthy biblical perspective here. It's not easy balancing the obvious retributive justice reflected in the Law of Moses (and thus in some sense integral to the justice of God) with the generosity and grace of the Sermon on the Mount (which, thus, must also in some sense reflect the justice of God). Some less careful readers want to toss out the retributive elements of OT justice by saying Jesus did away with it; but that's only partially true. Jesus was punished, and quite severely, let us never forget. But in his punishment mercy and grace were made available to the real offenders. Only--and I do mean ONLY--in Jesus was the "just made unjust" for our sake. And you're right: even the OT standards of retaliation were a check against excessive retaliation; they were a restraint on human evil, not a prescription for the infliction of new evil. It's hard to see that from this side of grace, however. Having been redeemed, we're in the position of being commanded to show mercy and to sacrificially bear the burdens of others. But understanding that requires that we look to the cross. God only punishes justly. And if that's true--which of course it is--then it ought to horrify us to see how God punished Jesus. And it ought to drive us to our knees in gratitude that we've been given the privilege of extending that same mercy God showed us to others. As for the case in question here...well, I'm not a sports fan, and I don't have any sense of how "severe" a four-game suspension is, so I can't address the appropriateness of it. But I do suspect the greater punishment is intrinsic: the public consequences to Brady's image are probably far more damaging than any suspension will ever be to his career and to his chances of making the Hall of Fame.

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