07 Feb 2013

The Author

I am a redeemed follower, basking in the knowledge that in my insufficiency I have been made sufficient, in my weakness I have been made strong, and in my searching I have been found. I am attempting to use the borrowed gifts I have been granted to their fullest potential, recognizing that I need not worry about where the credit for them goes, or where their power comes from. I am an adopted child in a universal family, connected through worship and unified in purpose, falling in passion-drenched captivation at the feet of a Father, by the sacrifice of a Son, in the power of a Spirit.

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The Misguided Theology of Ray Lewis
ray lewis

There is a reason that I typically don’t write about current events. First of all, the truths we can learn from the events occurring in our world are truths that have been openly touted for centuries. “There is nothing new under the sun,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us. The human condition is such that we can take the lessons learned, often the hard way, by the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and apply it to the nation of America right now.

The second reason I tend to shy from writing on these things is that it can sometimes result in a biased approach that may or may not be the same perspective held later on simply because the news is so fresh in our minds.

But, going against my better judgment, I wanted to speak a little on an interview shown prior to the Super Bowl yesterday between Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis.

If you don’t already know (and I am sure most of you do based on the bottleneck of tweets and Facebook posts about him), Ray Lewis is being talked about. He is being talked about in part because of his talent as a defensive lineman.

And he is a great player. Last night was his final game.

But, mostly, he is talked about because of his past. He was involved in a situation outside a club following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta back in 2000. Two people were stabbed and killed, Ray Lewis was taken into custody.

Fast forward a few years and a plea arrangement…and the case is still unsolved.

As far as those events go, that’s all I need to say. It isn’t up to me, especially in a blog post, to attempt to solve this part of the situation. I bring it up, however, to point back to the interview yesterday. Shannon Sharpe is talking to Lewis about his past, and he asks him this question:

“A couple of weeks ago, the family of the incident in 2000, and I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like this: While Ray Lewis is being celebrated by millions, two men tragically and brutally died in Atlanta. Ray Lewis knows more than Ray Lewis ever shared. What would you like to say to the family?”

We reach a pivotal point in this moment. Ray Lewis has been quite outspoken of late about his faith and belief in God. That being said, if he is hoping to respond in a way that reflects the faith he professes, he really only has two possible options.

Because we live in a world with only two possibilities: Ray Lewis committed the murder, or he didn’t.

And with those two possibilities, he can respond by either giving God the glory for His forgiveness, or giving God the glory for His protection.

Instead, however, he pulls an audible. This is his response:

“It’s simple. God has never made a mistake. That’s just who he is. You see? And if our system, this is the sad thing about our system — if our system took the time to really investigate what happened 13 years ago, maybe they would have got to the bottom line truth.

But the saddest thing ever is a man looked me in my face and told me, ‘we know you didn’t do this. but you going down for it anyway.’To the family, if you knew — if you really knew — the way God works, he don’t use people who commits anything like that for his good. No way. It’s the total opposite.”

His statement basically starts with some form of an assumption that because God is perfect then the court system should be as well…or if the system were perfect like God then it would prove his innocence completely…or something like that. It’s tough to decipher.

But then he goes on to say that God does not use people that have criminal backgrounds to do His work.

But what about Moses and the Egyptian?

He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” (Exodus 2:14)

Or David after sleeping with another man’s wife?

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah.In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

Or the apostle Paul before encountering Jesus?

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. (Galatians 1:13)

These men were unabashed about their pasts not because they were glorifying it, but because they recognized how much bigger God is in the simple fact that He can use us if we are willing. His forgiveness is bigger than our debt. His grace covers anything about our past that muddies us.

But we have to be willing to own it. We have to be willing to face our shortcomings, declare them in their full strength, and allow God’s redemption to do its full work.

Let’s say we live in the version of our universe where Ray Lewis is guilty. Last night’s interview would be a perfect chance for him to declare to the world that he sinned. He fell short. He did something wrong.

And then he could take that ownership and show how the faith he now has in God is built around it. How the same God that looked to the thief on the cross beside Him and told him they would be in Paradise together that day can use an NFL middle linebacker to share a story of grace in action.

Or, let’s say we live in the version of our universe where Ray Lewis is innocent. Last night’s interview would be a perfect chance for another reason.

It would give him a chance to empathize with the victims’ families, to commiserate with the horrific incident that occurred and praise God for protecting him and his integrity during the process. He could give God glory for an opportunity to play in a game he loves after living through a situation that could have gone in an all-together different way.

Either way, God gets the glory. Either way, the truth is spoken. Either way, God isn’t put into a human-sized box that attempts to dictate when and through whom God can work.

“For the righteous falls seven times and rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16)

We aren’t righteous because we fall. We are righteous because we rise up again. We are righteous because God is in us, doing His work and redeeming our gross bits.

Whichever universe we live in, I worry that Ray Lewis may have missed a great opportunity last night. Because the God I serve is amazing in His grace, with ways far beyond our understanding…using people far under-qualified for the work he has for them to do.

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