New Orleans—Among the many sideshows at Super Bowl 47 is the saga of Baltimore Ravens All-Pro Ray Lewis. The middle linebacker, who’s retiring after this season, has received much attention for his checkered past and devout Christian faith. As Lewis faced accusations this week of using performance-enhancing drugs, he said he was “too blessed to be stressed.”
In 2000, Lewis was involved in a fight that left two men dead. He was indicted on murder charges that were later dropped after he pled guilty to a lesser charge. Lewis turned his life around, embracing God, serving his community, and mentoring young players.
“I tell them, Trust me, don’t ever take my path,” Lewis said. “Don’t ever do it the way I did it.”
Lewis said he identifies with the biblical character of David, whose many “ups and downs” are evident in the Psalms. Columnist William Rhoden wrote that Lewis, like David, “has been a testament to redemption and atonement, to making the most of a second opportunity.”
Some people aren’t buying Lewis’ story of redemption, however. After the Ravens won the AFC Championship game, the wife of an opposing player posted a sarcastic comment about Lewis’ questionable past. Columnist Rick Morrissey asked, “Why are we lionizing this guy?”
Addressing why Lewis’ story troubles some people, Lane Palmer of Dare 2 Share wrote, “The scandal of total and complete forgiveness because of the blood of Jesus Christ is simply too much for many folks to process, so we react in self-righteous judgment and point our fingers.”
Palmer added that the Bible says we’re all murderers who need God’s “amazing grace.” That grace, he said, is “difficult to accept, hard to believe and even harder to receive.”
Sources: nytimes.com, suntimes.com, youthministry.com
- How do you feel about Ray Lewis and all the attention he’s been receiving? From what you know, did he deserve a second chance? Has he made good use of that second chance? Explain.
- Even if Lewis was involved in the murders, does he deserve accolades for turning his life around? Why or why not? Because he wasn’t found guilty, should his critics just back off? Is Lewis obligated to speak out about the incident? Why or why not?
- In what ways can people who’ve messed up still be role models? Is it possible to respect someone while disapproving of their prior—or present—actions?
- Why do you think so many biblical characters committed “major” sins? How does it feel to know that even God’s chosen leaders fell short in big ways?
- In what ways might forgiveness be considered a “scandal”? Is everyone equally deserving of God’s forgiveness? Do some people need more than others? Explain.
- Why is it so easy to judge other sinners, despite the fact that none of us is perfect? In God’s eyes, are some sins (and sinners) worse than others? Explain.
- What aspect of God’s grace do you find hardest to understand? Do you feel as if God’s grace is “sufficient” for you? Why or why not? What might make people hesitant to accept this free gift?
- Does experiencing God’s grace make you want to change your life? If so, how? How can you cope with the fact that you’ll continue to sin and mess up?
- How might you share the message of God’s forgiveness and grace with people who feel trapped by their sins? with people who don’t yet recognize their need to be forgiven?
Scripture links: Psalm 51; Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28; John 8:1-11; Romans 3:21-24; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:15-16.