Seems like a pretty interesting question. Is God even a sports fan? And, if so what is his favorite sport? Football, basketball, maybe baseball, or soccer? Seemingly questions of no particular consequence that we have asked ourselves at one time or another, but the implications of such continue to make for good discussion. If God were to have a favorite sports team, which would it be and why? On the surface these questions really don't carry much weight, but when you consider the fact the some if not all professional teams have a Chaplain and many times engage in prayer circles before they engage in their sport. And, these prayers are often time designed to ask God for favor to win their game against their rival or opponent. It becomes increasingly significant when you consider the scenario that two teams before playing each other engage in prayer to the same God for victory, who does God listen to? Is it the team that ultimately wins the game?
Well it seems that these are questions that many people have been asking because of future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. The Baltimore Ravens have been winning here lately in the NFL Playoffs, and are now headed to Super Bowl XVLII representing the AFC as they knocked off heavy favorites the New England Patriots in Sunday night's heated match-up. Towards the end of the regular season, Ray Lewis announced his formal retirement from the NFL after 13 years effective end of this season. I'm sure he couldn't imagine playing this deep into the playoffs after making this announcement, but you wouldn't know it by the way he proclaims and professes his faith at the end of games. NFL Analysts didn't give the Baltimore Ravens much hope beyond their Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts. And, the Ravens have exceeded everyone's expectations and are now just two weeks away from playing in Super Bowl XLVII. His outward expressions of his love for God; at least for some, are a bit over the top. Some even say that he is taking advantage of all of this extra media coverage by engaging in these religious antics, which they don't believe are real or sincere. I was listening to a local sports talk radio show, where this was a major topic of discussion. The radio show host were annoyed and even tuned off by Reverend Ray Lewis public displays of affection and praise to God. I do not subscribe this belief, nor do I agree with these radio talk show host (surprising), but I find it absolutely refreshing and inspiring to see an athlete give praise to his Creator.
For those who are not familiar with Ray Lewis, or do not know his story. He played football for the University of Miami, and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. He has had a very successful NFL career as one of the leagues most fierce and competitive linebackers. He led the Ravens to Super Bowl XXXIV back in 2000 where they eventually became champions. But, what followed this Ravens victory would haunt Ray Lewis for the rest of his NFL career. According to Wikipedia,
"Following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Lewis and his companion and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta Police, and 11 days later the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges...Lewis admitted he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings. Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender, and he was fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse. Under the terms of the sentence, Lewis could not use drugs or alcohol during the duration of the probation."
Ray continues to credit God for bringing him through this dark period of his NFL career. In fact, he tells us that it was through this dark time that his relationship with God became closer and more intimate. And, so these outward expressions of an inward affection and love for a God that has done so much for him is really the best way to explain what's going on. I personally am in no way offended by Ray Lewis praise & worship to a God that he loves and reverences. If nothing else that type of activity should be praised instead of scrutinized. We have enough negativity in our society, we have enough bad news clouding our airwaves, so this should be a welcomed change to the everyday minutia of pessimism that seems to find its way into our lives. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Unfortunately, you have some who believe Ray Lewis is just cashing in on the moment, that he is just taking advantage of the limelight and essentially making a spectacle of himself and an even a mockery of God. This again, begs the question does God have any place in the sports world, or is this world completely off limits?
I find it interesting that we live in a world where homosexuals and lesbians are praised and lauded for the courage to "come out of the closet" and openly proclaim their sexual preference. But, as soon as someone openly professes their love for God without shame or apprehension, they are immediately criticized and ostracized for their profession of faith. It is considered a nuisance or an annoyance that society should not have to tolerate. It's almost as if Ray Lewis is imposing his Christian beliefs on us without out our permission or "expressed written consent" (Where have I heard that from?) But, isn't that what is been done to us as impressionable consumers of all things media? Every time we turn the television on we are being imposed upon by network execs who force feed us shows that they think we would like, or they want us to like. Shows that carry with them specific special interests or underlying agendas that we were neither asked nor consulted on, and yet they have found their way on our television screens. No one asked us is this is the kind of show we want to see, and what they will tell us is that if you don't like these shows then you can simply change the channel. But, this doesn't seem like a viable alternative for the perturbed radio host who can't stand Rev Lewis religious display, he wants society to be completely redeemed of this type of behavior. No one should have to deal with Ray Lewis or people like him without our "expressed written consent." (There's that phrase again)
Is this fair, should Ray Lewis be silenced in favor of the irreverent and profane. Should Ray Lewis have to dial back his emotions and his love of God for the benefit of the media pundits who can't stand it? Should he have to consider those he might offend before he makes remarks concerning his relationship with God? The last time I checked we live in a country where we have freedom of speech, and everyone has the right to speak freely as it relates to their beliefs and their convictions. Again, I find it continually interesting that Ray Lewis is being lambasted on talk radio shows for his religious beliefs, but Lance Armstrong; while he recently admitted to doping and using performance enhancing drugs, will find more sympathy and support for his long awaited confession than Rev Lewis profession of his faith. Interesting!
Well the word of God tells us that the world loves its own. And, if Jesus was persecuted and criticized while He walked the earth, what should we expect as is His followers. This type of ridicule and vitriol from society is what Jesus tells us as His followers we should expect. In fact, the Bible tells us that, "those that will live godly shall suffer persecution." So, this should be an expected behavior from those who don't know God, let alone do not have a relationship with Him. Jesus is essentially saying the world will never understand your love for Me, society will never appreciate your faith in Me. In fact, you will be setting yourself up for persecution when you openly profess your love for me. And, what we typically don't understand we ridicule, what we cannot comprehend we ostracize and defame. So, my message to Ray Lewis is don't take it personal; don't allow the media pundit to discourage you; don't let them quench your hunger and thirst for God; don't allow people who don't understand your relationship with God to define your relationship with God. But, what's interesting about all of this is that I don't think for one minute that Ray will be deterred by what people say. I don't think he will allow his critics to stop him from loving God and telling everybody's about his love for God. With the same physical domination and determination he exemplifies on the field, I believe he will use this to overcome the cynicism and negativity from his most ardent critics. And, if nothing else, this should be a lesson to us as Christians to not allow society to dictate how our love for God ought to be demonstrated. We should not ever allow our voices to be silenced in favor of maintaining the status quo. But, we should do as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:15, "let our light so shine that men may see our good works and glorify the Father, which is in heaven. So Ray keep on keeping on,and don't let anybody stop you, because at the end of the day I don't think anyone really can. Just remember, "NO WEAPON!"