A star basketball player, a winning season and an honor code violation. The nation is watching to see the final verdict as BYU decides the fate of player Brandon Davies who confessed to pre-marital sex with his girlfriend resulting in his dismissal from the team. Should he be re-instated or dismissed from the university all together? What is a Christian to do?
That Davies violated the honor code is not in question. What sets Davies apart from Charlie Sheen and those who do not seem to understand why one needs standards of honor is that Davies came forward to confess. By so doing he was saying that honor matters, that he doesn't want to be a hypocrite and that he will pay the price to take a stand.
Honor codes are simply words on paper until they are exemplified in action. Davies is the rare case of one who measured short term gain (keeping the violation hidden and in so doing assuring his place on the team) and long term gain (being a man of character) and chose the latter. Now BYU officials must decide whether honor is defined by a list of rules or by the very reasons those rules exist in the first place- to call forth honor.
As a former university dean and current pastor, I often counsel people dealing with the backside of moral and ethical failure. I see the devastation caused in lives, marriages and careers when compromises are made in matters of honor. I applaud BYU for having an honor code and for raising a standard, but the strength of an honor code is not in elevating the letter of the law. The code is in place to promote character. With Brandon Davies the code fulfilled its purpose.
In the Bible when a certain woman was caught in adultery, the religious leaders were ready to stone her and in so doing adhere to the law. Jesus was the only one to take a different approach.
He said, "He that is without sin, cast the first stone." As the religious leaders laid down their stones, Jesus said to the lady, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." Jesus cared more for this lady's heart and future than for making her a case example and elevating the rules for "rules sake".
There is a prize much greater than a basketball trophy or crowing rights for being a university with a code of honor. The lost art of honor is at stake. Davies took the first step toward honor and now BYU will show whether high standards and forgiveness can meet together. Honor hangs in the balance.
Rev. Bill Shuler is lead pastor at Capital Life Church in Arlington, Virginia. For more visit capitallife.org.