Ray Lewis & Offensive Grace

From an indictment on murder charges to retiring from the NFL as a two-time Super Bowl champion, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis rose from the ashes like a mythical phoenix. Thinking his reputation was tarnished forever, no one had even the faintest idea of how Lewis’ life and career would develop after that tragic fight hours after the Super Bowl in Atlanta on January 31, 2000. Lewis’ lack of guilt remains in doubt to this day, and for good reason. Lewis admits to lying to the police about what transpired around the time of the deaths and accepted a plea deal to escape the murder charges. Most believe that if Lewis was truly innocent, he would have fought the accusations head-on in court. Whether Lewis was truly guilty or not, the fact he was connected to that heinous crime at all was a reflection on his lifestyle choices. In spite of his past mistakes, Lewis seemingly has it all and was privileged enough to hang up his cleats after conquering the NFL’s grandest stage for the second time. Yet, many ask, does Ray Lewis deserve the grace he has been given?

Sideline theologian?
Lewis’ eagerness to speak openly about his Christianity on a national stage is something we have seen ever increasingly since the murder trial. In recent years, Lewis would quote scripture nearly every time he got in front of a camera. In an odd ritual, according to Sports Illustrated, Lewis would dip his fingers in “consecrated” oil before every game and trace a cross on the foreheads his fellow Ravens defenders. Society does not know whether Ray Lewis, the father of six children by four different women, is merely giving lip service to his faith or if he is acting on it as well. Lewis’ partner, Tatyana McCall, spoke with Orlando’s ABC Channel Six about the 13-time Pro Bowler. She defended him by saying, “We are all ex-something’s. Ex-drunks. Alcoholics. Womanizers. Whatever it is. He’s got a past.” McCall also claimed that the linebacker “is the first one to say, ‘I didn’t always get it right.’”She later stated her belief that Lewis has become a changed man and that she believes it was his trial 13 years ago that caused Lewis to turn to Jesus.

Community activist
Lewis and his mother, Sunseria “Buffy” Smith, head up the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation. The foundation was created to personally and financially help disadvantaged youth and families in order to build a tighter-knit community in the Baltimore area. Programs that emphasize the importance of education, high self-esteem, healthy lifestyles and family unity have been successfully developed and implemented by the foundation for years. Lewis now annually purchases Christmas gifts for hundreds of children, buys school supplies for thousands, and uses his foundation to provide Thanksgiving dinners to hundreds of families across the city. Some argue that Ray Lewis has used his money to buy his way back into the public’s good graces. However, when one looks at other athletes who made headlines in that era for crimes and reckless behavior – guys like O.J. Simpson, Rae Curruth and Latrell Sprewell – none have repaired their reputation as quickly and effectively as Ray Lewis did, if at all.

Undeserved grace
While many still do not take Lewis’ professed faith seriously, since he has not publicly told the truth about what happened in Atlanta, it is indisputable that Lewis is unashamed to profess his faith, and has sacrificially given his time, money and emotional support to serve those in need. However, even if Ray Lewis had become a renowned pastor or the most generous philanthropist of all time, his good works would still not be enough for him to deserve God’s grace. The Bible tells us that, “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Regardless of our sinful nature, God is so kind and loving that he still hands out his inexhaustible grace to everyone. Ray Lewis does not deserve the grace God has shown him but, truth be told, none of us do. We are all as guilty as the most heinous sinner when measured up against the holiness of God. As Romans 11:6 tells us, “And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is – free and undeserved.” With God, there is grace. Even for suspected murderers like Ray Lewis. Grace is scandalous. Grace is offensive. If it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be grace at all.

Jonathan can be reached at [email protected] or visit .

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