Shorter version: it’s not the Gospel.
Ravens win. Parade in B -more. Large, muscular men going to Disney World. Ray Lewis talking about his faith.
For those not in the know, Ray Lewis has a bleak past, highlighted by his involvement in the January 31st murder of two people. However, sometime after that affair, he had some sort of conversion experience. Like, he was so born again, Sports Illustrated had a 2006 cover story detailing his newfound commitment to being a Christian. Praying in the photo and everything.
Of course, there’s more the story of pressed hands and eyes gazing at the heavens doesn’t tell his whole story. During the pre-game festivities, CBS aired a recently taped interview with Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe about that horrible note 13 years ago. When Sharpe asked about his innocence and how he’s interacted with the victim’s loved ones, Lewis replies:
“…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.”
Uhm. The writer of the USA Today article covering the interview goes on to say this:
When given a chance to speak to the families of two victims, Lewis instead professed his innocence through the will of God. He suggests God would never allow a man who committed two murders to have so much success afterward.
To borrow a football phrase, flag on the play, Ray.
Jesus versus Ray
The worst part is, the Bible Ray quotes so often in his team prayers gives a narrative strikingly different than the one he offers to the relatives of people he may or may not have killed. Jesus, the best man to ever live, came as a suffering servant, had his best friends betray him, and died on a cross. This alone reveals that Godly living does not necessitate worldly success, the words of Jesus (“blessed are the meek, poor, persecuted, etc”) do too. Going further, a common theme in the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes (commonly referred to as “Wisdom literature”) discusses the seemingly unfair success of the wicked.
Okay, don’t care for Scripture? Think for literally, like four seconds about the people of influence and power in your life. Your boss is like, the nicest person ever, right? Oh, no…you don’t say? Well then. Depending on who you ask, the two Super Bowl rings might be just as much a sign of your shame as much as it is your vindication.
Jesus, instead of Ray
The real Jesus, not that phony that gives us strength* to win at sports, grants something so much better to the victims and the guilty. To those that have been hurt, he his death is not the end of the story. He rose from the grave, giving us objective proof that the death that comes from sin has no more power over His kids. He understands what its like to be mistreated and brutally wronged, and he promises comfort in our affliction and a perfect hope in our future.
*ATTENTION CHRISTIAN ATHLETES…that’s not what it means.
To the guilty, that same resurrected Jesus shows that the very worst that we could ever do is no match for the powerful son of God. The sin in all of us that he died for could not contain him, and while that level of sovereign control should terrify enemies of God (read: all of us) — that same God invites criminals to come home with him. If Ray had any more involvement than what our justice system decided to prosecute, he’s got a Savior ready for him.
Depending on who you ask, the two Super Bowl rings might be just as much a sign of your shame as much as it is your vindication.
Look, despite my negative tone throughout this piece, don’t let my theological qualms serve as air tight evidence for what Ray did. Ray really might be genuine. Ray really might be innocent. But, what he said was profoundly unbiblical and a terrible example to the people that lost loved ones that night 13 years ago. I hope that all those that were affected might know this: Jesus promises them something better than winning football, he promises them Himself.