Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Second Chances

Have you ever been given a "second chance"? A fresh opportunity to succeed after messing up badly? The truth is I wouldn't be writing this blog now if I hadn't been given some very significant second chances. I was encouraged last week by this news story:

jasmine[Ottawa] Mayor Larry O’Brien has hired a disgraced former communications staffer for a federal Tory minister as he revamps his office staff.

“We will soon be welcoming Jasmine MacDonnell as my new Communications Director,” [says] O’Brien. “Jasmine comes with excellent credentials and will be able to work closely with the media in both official languages.”

MacDonnell also comes with baggage. She resigned from Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt’s office in June after leaving sensitive briefing books in a television studio and, previously, leaving her audio recorder in a Parliament Hill washroom.

“That is not a résumé most of us around here would be jumping to,” said [one City Councillor].

[Later, O'Brien says,] “I have interviewed three highly qualified candidates and we chose Jasmine MacDonnell. We’re excited to have her join our staff.”

obrien[Two Councillors] said the mayor seems different since his leave from office for his criminal trial. Upon resuming office after his acquittal, O’Brien said he’d been thinking the city needs to do a much better job communicating to residents.... he wants to “turn over a new leaf” and [he had a] conciliatory attitude toward other councillors at his first council meeting on Wednesday. (quoted and abridged from The Ottawa Citizen, Sept 3, 2009)

You see, Mayor Larry O'Brien was just last month acquitted of criminal charges (influence peddling, having allegedly bribed a rival candidate for Mayor). The acquittal has given O'Brien a second chance at being Mayor of Ottawa. I venture to believe that when a person is given a second chance, they may be changed by that experience and become the kind of person with the right mix of mercy, insight and courage so as to be able to give someone else the gift of a second chance. I find myself agreeing with O'Brien that Jasmine MacDonnell is one of the most qualified Communication Directors in Canada, and totally deserving of a second chance. MacDonnell has been trashed in the press, but very likely she chose to fall on her sword to protect the reputation of the Natural Resources Minister who is in fact the one guilty of saying inappropriate things and leaving behind sensitive material. If MacDonnell did anything wrong, she is very likely to have learned from that, and thus be even more qualified, not less. Even back in June when Jasmine MacDonnell resigned, I found myself wondering if anyone would do the right thing and give her the second chance I believe she deserved. O'Brien's decision made me very happy.

When you've been given a second chance, perhaps the most extraordinary thing you can do is to give a second chance to someone else still in the exile you've been rescued from. May the God of Second Chances bless Mayor O'Brien and Jasmine MacDonnell. Yes, we believe in a God of Second Chances. Think about King David after his fall into sexual sin, Moses after killing the Egyptian or Saul after persecuting Christians. God has proven himself to be merciful, forgiving and the giver of second chances. Redemption is about making all things right. I thank God not only for a second chance, but also for giving me the faith to believe that others deserve a second chance too.


  1. I like the idea of second chances. The question I would like to ask is "what is the criteria for a second chance?" Are second chances available to anyone and everyone and is there a possibility of not receiving a second chance? Too many have the notion that if one messes up in life, second chances are readily available and it becomes a routine in life of second, third and so forth.

  2. We all like the idea of second chances, when we think about how we've messed up and how much we would like to be able to start again.

    When it comes to other people, we like to talk about the right criteria for a second chance; conditions must be met. And usually it is just a second chance we are willing to give, not a third or fourth, though I have heard of some rather generous folks being willing to give up to seven chances.

    Of course, all of us are rebuked in our hearts by Jesus, the Saviour and Giver of "Second" Chances....
    Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?"
    Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
    (Matthew 18:21-22, TNIV and see the following parable!)

  3. I prefer that verse in the KJV Matthew 18:22 "Until seventy times seven." It sounds like a limitless number.

  4. I don't know about that, Andy. It still sounds like 77 to me! I think Jesus is using kind of a play on words, not 7 but 77 or 777 or 7777.

    Anyhow, the point is this: Do you think these words of Jesus apply to this matter of second chances? Is he saying we should actually give a person 77 chances or more? I'd really like to know if people think Jesus' words on forgiveness relate to this subject of giving people a second chance. Personally, I suspect his words totally apply to this matter.

  5. I agree with you both, second chances are limitless. Look at King David for example. Wait a minute it almost looks like Andy is putting conditions on second and third chances?? Is that right Andy?? Gary

  6. I think second chances are essential, vital and mandatory. It is the nature of who we are. Second, third, four chances etc. should always be available to those who have a repentant heart.

  7. Gary, Andy and M thanks for raising this matter of conditions to be met before receiving a second chance. M said second, third, fourth chances should always be given as long as a person has a repentant heart. To me that sounds like the person has regret and wishes to change. And I agree with Mike, give them a second chance. For sure!

    But what if someone does not seem repentant and shows no change of heart? Should I give that person a second chance?

    Do you have to "deserve" a second chance? Is there no room for mercy and grace on the unrepentant? What if I choose to give that person a second chance even if there's been no change of heart? Would you think I was crazy?

    Look again at the interchange between Peter and Jesus. They are talking about forgiving "someone who sins against me," not necessarily "someone who sins against me and says sorry." Personally, I suspect this is a radical teaching of Jesus that goes beyond what most Christians have accepted. It's easier to accept that we need only forgive those who say sorry. It's harder to imagine forgiving those who never repent. Likewise, it's hard to imagine giving a second chance to someone who has not changed their heart/mind, but maybe it's a good thing to do. Maybe giving that unrepentant person a second chance is what will melt their heart and move them to repentance.

    I'd love to see more discussion on this. Does a person need to show a change of heart and say sorry before we give them a second chance?

  8. No I don't think you have to have a repentant heart to be given a second or third or fourth chance.
    Ex: I had three serious car accidents in one summer due to my lifestyle choices at the time. My doctor said "how many chances does God have to give you?" I thought about it and replied how about one more.
    You know I didn't change a thing I continued to live on the edge for many more years before I asked for forgiveness, who knows how many times people forgave my shortcomings in those years, 77 maybe?
    What I do know I had Godly grandparents praying for me, maybe that had something to do with my
    2nd, 3rd or 77 times forgiven.
    Don't know if this is what you are looking for but my short answer is you can begiven many chances with an unrepentant heart. G.

  9. G. thanks for sharing some of your story. I wonder how many of us would be here today if we had not been giving some pretty big "second chances."

    You have clearly identified how God gave you a second chance though you were not repentant. Here's the question. In becoming like Christ, should we also give a second chance to someone who is not repentant? Is that what Christ would call us to do?



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