Tuesday, February 5th, 2013...10:04 am

Ravens’ Ray Lewis: a sinner who ‘got up’

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I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s Super Bowl.
To witness what appeared to be a blowout change into a heart-stopper after a 30 plus-minute blackout could not have been better television.
The scenario of the game focused on the retiring veteran versus the upstart sophomore. I was rooting for the retiring veteran, Ray Lewis, partly because of the age versus youth scenario, and partly because I believe in redemption.
In the stories about Baltimore Ravens’ Lewis during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, very seldom did the reporters leave out Lewis’ involvement in a double murder 13 years ago.
That’s fine. That’s a part of who Lewis is.
But many of those interviews were followed by someone critical of Lewis’ continued references to God and his Christian beliefs. It appeared the critics didn’t think Lewis was as sincere about his rebirth as he wanted the public to believe.
Give me two weeks and I probably won’t recognize Lewis if I pass him at a mall. I am not the least bit star-struck.
But what I am is a believer in redemption. I believe that a 24-year-old Lewis who had a connection to the killing of two men in Atlanta can be transformed into a 37-year-old Lewis who is a beloved leader of his football team and member of his community.
In 2000, just after a Super Bowl party, Lewis and a couple of friends were involved in a violent altercation with two other young men. Lewis, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were charged with the murder of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis started the trial at the defense table with Oakley and Sweeting, but pleaded down to a charge of obstruction of justice in exchange for testifying against his friends. They were eventually acquitted after arguing self defense.
Lewis, however, was sentenced to 12 months probation, was fined $250,000 by the NFL and was required to abstain from drugs and alcohol during the probationary period.
In 2004, Lewis settled with Lollar’s fiancée and with the Baker family to avoid a trial in civil court.
None of that smacks of wholesomeness, true enough. But one of the contemporary Gospel songs I live by is the Donnie McClurkin version of We Fall Down.
The lyrics go like this: “We fall down, but we get up … for a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up.”
It’s the redemption story we all claim to love and believe in when it comes to our own shortcomings or mistakes. But when we are looking at others, we don’t think their sins are forgivable. We act as though they should have to wallow in those mistakes for eternity.
We see it in our treatment of ex-felons, many of whom are forced to live in poverty because their criminal records are obstructions to good-paying jobs.
“No matter what you’ve
done … You can get back up again … ”
Trust is difficult to regain once it has been toyed with; ask any betrayed spouse. It requires forgiveness, which is in very short supply.
When I look at Lewis, and the love his teammates have for him, I see a life redeemed. I see, if not a saint, a sinner who fell down and got up.
Lord, have mercy on those of us who look upon people like Lewis, people who have messed up royally, and see only sinners. That means people are seeing the same image when they look at us.
We all should see sinners repeatedly getting back up again, even when we look in the mirror.
That’s what God hopes to see.

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