One of the major sports headlines recently has to do with Ray Rice, former Rutgers standout and all-star running back for the Baltimore Ravens – at least he was. He has been dismissed from the team and banned by the NFL from playing anywhere. Rice had already been penalized two games for knocking out his then fiancée in an elevator. Hallway surveillance cameras captured him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator.
The incident really blew up when elevator footage itself was released showing him actually delivering the knockout blow with a vicious left hook. That’s when he was kicked off the team and banned by the NFL.
The strange twist is that his fiancée is now his wife. She stayed with him. There are those who say, “That’s a typical behavior for those abused.” In other words, they are saying she doesn’t know what she’s doing, or at least what’s good for her.
Rice’s wife (Janay), though, has a different take on it. Here’s her comment:
“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that [the] media & unwanted opinions from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked… for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.
“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get? If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!”
We don’t know the whole story. We certainly don’t know what’s going on in Ray Rice or Janay. We do know that abuse is wrong at every level. But why is she staying with him? Why did she marry him at all, after that?
That’s the same sort of question we might ask God about His church.
I’m preaching a series through the book of Judges. There you’ve got people who prostitute themselves with idols, who are said to “whore after” what they want, spurning the commands of God to do what is right in their own eyes, who trample over God’s kindness and what does God do? He send them deliverers. They deserve wrath. God shows love.
You know what a non sequitur is? It’s a break in logic, a deviation in theme; the conclusion doesn’t follow from the facts. The gospel is one big non sequitur. We see glimpses of it throughout the Bible, culminating in the Deliverer of God’s elect, Jesus Christ the righteous one.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:8–9).
Do we really believe it when we sing “Guilty, vile and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was He; full atonement! can it be? Hallelujah! what a Savior!”?
“Yes, I’m vile, but not as vile as Ray Rice.” If you really believe that, then you understand neither the depth of your sin nor the holiness of God. I’m not defending Ray Rice. I’m defending the truth of God’s Word and the glory of the gospel. I’m highlighting the magnitude of God’s love and the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice.
We don’t know what’s going on in Janay Rice’s mind and in her heart that she not only marries a guy who abuses her, but then defends him and pleads for people to leave them alone so they can carve out a life together. Experts think they’ve got it all figured out, tossing around labels like “enabler.” So with one label, they neutralize any impact of what she said and invalidate any comment she might make about her situation that does comport with their own view.
One thing is abundantly clear: Ray Rice did not deserve either her or her commitment to him. He deserved to be vilified. His actions were repulsive and unconscionable. He deserved condemnation.
Such are all who are met by the grace of the gospel. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…
(Click here for a summary of the gospel, God’s Good News.)