Home > grace > Ray Lewis Sacked My Theology

Ray Lewis Sacked My Theology

Wild Card Playoffs - Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore RavensI hated Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Ok, that’s probably too strong… I intensely disliked Ray Lewis.

Why?

Because I thought he got away with murder.

If you’re not familiar with the story – after leaving a Super Bowl party in January of 2000, Lewis’ entourage got in a fight with another group of people as both groups were leaving an Atlanta nightclub. Two men were stabbed to death in the fight. Lewis and two of his companions were indicted for murder – but Lewis cut a deal: in exchange for his testimony against his companions, he was allowed to plead guilty to “obstructing justice,” a misdemeanor. Lewis received 12 months probation and was fined by the NFL. Like I said, he got away with murder – or at least being an accessory to murder.

I was outraged – and isn’t it funny (or perhaps, pathetic) how we will get so emotionally involved in events that don’t really have anything to do with us or anyone we know and love? As the years passed, my anger cooled, but not completely. Whenever I heard or read anything about Lewis, whenever I watched the Ravens play, I was filled with contempt and disgust.  And when I read a few years back about Lewis becoming a Christian, I scoffed, ridiculing and rejecting his conversion as “a public relations move…”

As recently as two weeks ago, after the Ravens beat the Colts in the first round of the AFC playoffs, I stated publicly and repeatedly that I would not be pulling for the Ravens because of one Ray Lewis and the events of 12 years ago.

And then God tapped me on the shoulder…

He reminded me that I too had been guilty of murder – or at least I had hated others, and Jesus said that was the same thing… Honestly, according to Jesus, I was an adulterer, a thief, and a liar. In short I was a sinner.

Just like you. Just like Ray Lewis.

I stand in front of people and preach the Good News – that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… That none of us had really gotten away with anything – Jesus paid for every sin with his precious blood… Because of his sacrifice, we who have placed our faith in Christ and called on the name of the Lord do not have to pay the penalty for our sins – Jesus paid it for us and in doing so made it possible for God to give us the gift of eternal life.

I tell those who listen that our sins are gone, obliterated, drowned in the Sea of God’s Forgetfulness, as far from us as the east is from the west… With great joy I share with others that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. I preach grace and freedom from condemnation to some pretty messed up people – myself included.

But to my shame, I have failed to take off my judge’s robe and my executioner’s hood when it came to Ray Lewis. In practical terms, I have applied the blessings and benefits of following Jesus to every other believer I knew, myself included – but I have denied them to Ray Lewis.

I was so inconsistent, and so wrong. And realizing that makes me sorrowful and repentant – and makes me thank God again for the forgiveness I do not – cannot – ever deserve. Obviously, I am still way too capable of having a “grace for me, none for thee” attitude. Obviously, I have much more to learn, much more road to travel in my understanding and living out of God’s outrageous, incredible, life-saving grace.

Thank God for his love, his mercy, his grace, love, acceptance, and forgiveness – freely given to a stumbling screw-up like me. And thank God for Ray Lewis, a fellow sinner, saved by the grace of God and my brother in Christ.

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  1. Greg Michael
    January 21, 2013 at 7:30 am | #1

    Well said brother. As another pastor said to me, “I’m only about knee deep in understanding the ocean of grace”. Thanks for the encouraging & thought provoking words!

  2. Pam Michael
    January 21, 2013 at 7:23 pm | #2

    SO proud to call you my Pastor!!! I am touched by your repentance and humility…..thanks for being transparent.

  3. Lorrie
    January 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm | #3

    Thank you for writing this. I feel like people(unfortunately Christians) forget that Christ came and died and rose for everyone of us, not just those of us who think we are better than everyone else ,because our sin is more private. I am thankful for Ray Lewis’s testimony. Hopefully people will see the grace and forgiveness of the Living God through the work He has begun in someone like Ray Lewis.

  4. Shari
    January 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm | #4

    Thank you for your story. I am a dyed in the wool Ravens fan, and I was very upset with Ray for what he did. But he served his probation, and did his penance. And, to his credit, he is a better man, and a better teacher & role model for it. He strives to show Christ in everything he does now. He gives so much to the City of Baltimore & the State of Maryland thru all of his charitable contributions. He touches people, both here in MD & all over the country. As you said, we all fall short of the grace of God. Ray does too, but he is trying…
    I always think when people constantly criticize Ray Lewis, doesn’t anyone remember that the Saint Paul was a terrible person before God called him and turned him around. He persecuted early Christians badly. Couldn’t that be what God is doing with Ray Lewis? Think about it…

  5. Debra
    January 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm | #5

    Thanks for sharing. I had a similar experience in the last three weeks regarding Ray Lewis and can relate with everything you posted…repentance included. So glad He uses even football to correct and rebuke me (us) when I am wrong and show me my ungodly attitudes. Thanks from someone who still has a lot to learn.

  6. January 23, 2013 at 10:32 am | #6

    Sorry, but this is yet another reason I can’t fully get behind the Christian faith I was raised with. I will never agree with the idea that “Hating” someone is the same thing as killing them. Cheating on your spouse or lying is not the same as killing. I felt/feel much the same as you did in that seeing Ray L. reveling in success and fame leaves a bitter taste. However, that Jesus supposedly died for our sins may give us a blank slate to start with, but (as I’m sure you know) does not give license to freely sin without remorse from now on. As for a “grace for me, none for thee” attitude, I don’t really think that’s what it is about. God may forgive Ray L for whatever his involvement in this crime was (if he is even truly repentant,) but that doesn’t change the fact that he may have gotten out of paying his earthy price.

    • fiercegrace
      January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am | #7

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts – obviously I can’t agree with a lot of what you said.

      In 1 John 3:15, the Bible says, “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart.” Add to that the fact the whenever the Bible “lists” sins, sexual immorality and lying are included right alongside murder – making no distinction in severity or penalty.

      Even if Lewis committed a crime and got away with it, my responsibility as a recipient of God’s grace is to extend that grace to my brother in Christ – and that grace doesn’t have to be earned or deserved. In other words, I give it to him, you, and anyone else, the same way it was given to me.

      Blessings!

    • January 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm | #8

      well said!!!!!!!!

    • January 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm | #9

      Often the mistake nonbelievers make is comparing God’s eyes with our eyes. Of course murder is worse on earth than adultery because it takes somebody off the earth without any other chance. But as far as sin is concerned, God views all disobedience as the same. He doesn’t see murder as worse than stealing because He isn’t limited to earthly endeavors… He lives in eternity and murder simply doesn’t have the same meaning to Him… one passes from one plane of existence to another in the blink of an eye anyway… whether it be murder, an accident, or a “long” earthly life. He sees the sin, not the devastation that we put on the sin. Although He mourns with us, He is not limited by us.

  7. Henry
    January 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm | #10

    In fairness to Ray Lewis, it does not appear that there was ever any real evidence that he was involved in the fight that resulted in the death of the two individuals. If the prosecution truly believed Lewis was involved, they would never have given him a mere misdemeanor plea deal. Moreover, if the NFL, after looking into the matter, really thought that he had actually participated in the killing, it would not have let him off so easily. It is true that the company he was keeping was evidently less than desirable (from a Christian perspective), but the constant insinuation by the Ray Lewis haters that he got off with murder is not really very accurate based upon published descriptions of the incident.

    • January 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm | #11

      Thank You! I didn’t see your post earlier and echoed much of what you said. Well said!

  8. Di
    January 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm | #12

    When you can look into the mirror, and find no fault, then go and cast the first stone,

  9. Jackson Hill
    January 24, 2013 at 1:58 am | #13

    Very well-written, and thought-provoking article. I certainly agree that God’s Grace is so much bigger than we could ever comprehend, and that His forgiveness has a boundless reach. Therefore, because we have been given such an incredible grace, we are in no position to deny that same grace (although imperfect coming from us) to all of our brothers and sisters. Thus, I understand what our response should be regarding Mr. Lewis, but I am curious as to what you think his response needs to be.

    James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” And Proverbs 28:13 states, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Clearly there is a Biblical directive to confess in order to acknowledge both our sinful nature and inescapable reliance on God for rescue and restoration.

    While I am in no place to declare that Mr. Lewis does not have genuine faith, I am discouraged that he has never really set the record straight about what happened that night in Atlanta. He hid the suit he was wearing the night of the murders, testified against his friends (although never directly linked them to the murders), and continues to refuse to answer questions about the incident in interviews. Consequently, no one was convicted for the murders, and the families of the two young men were left with no closure about the incident.

    A comment above mentions Paul as a “terrible person” before coming to Christ, a comment with which I would not disagree (although admittedly we were all terrible people before Christ). The difference, however, between the Apostle Paul and Mr. Lewis is that Paul was completely forthcoming about his past and how Christ had redeemed him from it. In fact he says in 1 Timothy 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” Paul had completely acknowledged his past sins, and used his transformation as an incredible testimony to Christ’s matchless power. Why won’t Mr. Lewis do the same?

    We serve a God of boundless grace, but He is also a righteous judge, administering flawless justice. Was justice truly served here? Moreover, has Mr. Lewis attempted to love the families of the victims by honestly addressing what happened that night? Could he not openly confess everything, confident in the sustaining power of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy?

    Matthew 5:23-24 states,”So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” I believe that from the outpouring of love he has received from Christ, he should pour that love out to those brothers and sisters who were left behind by these tragic murders by telling them the truth. I do not think his 12 month probation, NFL fine, and undisclosed settlement are adequate substitutes.

    In closing, I want to again emphasize that I agree that we are called to extend grace to our brothers and sisters. But something that was not mentioned in this article is the role that we have as Christians to gently rebuke our brothers and sisters. As Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” So while we are certainly called to extend grace, we are not to simply ignore the sin that is present in other’s lives. My reproof to Mr. Lewis would be to be open about what happened that night and no longer remain hidden. In short, I struggle to uphold him as an example of God’s redemptive grace if he is not willing to openly confess from what the Lord actually redeemed him.

    Looking forward to your comments.

  10. January 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm | #14

    If you are neither a Baltimorean nor avid Ravens/Ray Lewis fan, then I somewhat understand the lack of complete and factual knowledge of the case in question. You undoubtedly followed coverage by the major media outlets and unfortunately fell prey to their slant in search of a juicy story about a celebrity.

    Here are a few facts that should shed some light for you and hopefully change your opinion of Ray Lewis…and if it doesn’t, I refer you to again to the original post.

    1) Although Ray was seen at the location of the crime, not a single witness, and there were many, so much as saw Ray even arguing with the two men killed, much less fighting or stabbing either of them. Ray was observed by several witnesses trying to walk away and imploring his guests to get in the limousine.

    2) The plea deal was mainly to “save face” for the prosecutors, who, again, had no case against Ray. He may not have been immediately cooperative with authorities, but who wouldn’t have been unsure what to do in a situation such as that?

    3) What came out in the case is that the two men killed were the instigators of the whole situation which led to their deaths after one of them “cracked” one of the men in Ray’s party over the head with a wine (or some other type) bottle.

    4) The man who actually did the stabbing plead “self defense” and was also acquitted.

    5) The families unsuccessfully tried to file a civil suit against Ray Lewis.

    Someone please tell me how this qualifies as “getting away with” anything?

    • February 3, 2013 at 11:52 pm | #15

      Thank you for those details. I had reserved opinion because I did not know the facts. We all need to be careful of jumping to conclusions.

  11. john
    January 26, 2013 at 9:41 am | #16

    But can’t you write this AFTER the SUper Bowl? ;-) JK. good job.

  12. February 3, 2013 at 11:50 pm | #17

    Well said.

  13. February 4, 2013 at 4:21 pm | #18

    You nailed me brother. Thanks for clarifying my own confusion (or perhaps more accurately ignorant stubbornness) of what to think about the situation. I now extend the same grace to Ray Lewis that I previously reserved for myself and others besides him. My only question now is, why no statements of remorse or apology to the familiy? Is the plea deal binding him from any interaction or public statements about those events?

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