Hope after a Hit

11 09 2014

How a punch from Ray Rice became like any other Baltimore violent crime and why we have hope:

If you’re reading this, you have seen the shocking video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator. Most likely you have also seen the recently released video of what happened inside that elevator.

It’s a horror show of domestic abuse. They’re engaged in an argument, he appears to accelerate the dispute, and then he hits her with a punch that lifts her up off her feet.

What if I told you there was hope?

There is hope and healing for the victims of abusive relationships. Healing can be found in Jesus.

If you are in an abusive relationship, stop reading this and talk to someone now. You can call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233 or visit www.TheHotline.org or you can call Emergency Services at 911. You can call myself or one of our team members at the church, 410.929.1619.

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Violent crime is a reality if you live in a farming community or a city. The TV Show COPS began with many stops in the neighborhood I grew up in Portland, OR. Having lived in Baltimore City the past four years, I am often now unaware of a police helicopter circling over our neighborhood.

Violent crime is no little thing. It’s no joking matter. It is something that I’ve been thinking about and giving time to find answers for.

I believe that one reason Ray’s punch and Baltimore’s crime carry such emotional violence is that it is so unexpected. Ray Rice has done more than what was expected of him to serve the community. He’s suffered violence to his own family in his childhood neighborhood. He had served the community and done a lot to help pass anti-bullying legislation and raise awareness about bullying. We might have expected this violent event from another football player, but not Ray Rice.

In Baltimore City, violent crime has been personally shocking to many who moved here. They expected it to be a safe place to live and raise a family. This is not the time and place for the data, but I’ve been doing research going back to the 1800’s and over and over I read that this was the case. Thousands of families have moved to Baltimore with the expectation of it being a safe harbor city to settle in. Today this has changed. Thanks to Baltimore’s current reality, The Wire, Homicide, and Drugs Inc our beautiful city’s reputation is rough at best.

In the accounts of victims of violent crime, you often hear the trauma of emotional pain over just how shocking the event was. They didn’t see it coming.

Now we see violence from “Lil’ Ray” and it hurts. It’s shocking because of the video. Because we can see exactly what happened.

Baltimore City is a football town. It has been a blue collar, proud, football town. From the Colts of the 50’s, to the CFL and minor league teams, to the Ravens…it has been a championship football town.

Now it’s bruised.

Would it have been different if Ray had confessed in complete detail, right after the event, and asked for forgiveness then?

I don’t know.

Honestly, I have no idea what was going on inside Ray Rice that night. I think we can all agree that we would not want our worst mistake to be broadcast on video for the world to see. But to throw a punch? What?!?

ray-rice-press-wifeThere must be more going on inside Ray. “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish… Whom have I in heaven but you?” Psalms 73:21-26

Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Pastor said this, “We must accept finite disappointment but we must never lose infinite hope.” Pastor King knew and preached that God is the source of that hope.

I believe that hope can be found in Jesus.

Abusive relationships are one of the worst forms of evil in our world. Sadly I have seen many first hand. In many cases, the victims of abuse choose to stay in those relationships.

There is hope and healing for the victims of abusive relationships. Healing can be found in Jesus. Each of us is created in the, “image of” the Creator (see Genesis 1:26). Regardless of our educational, economic, ethnic, cultural, or sexually unique traits we are all created with a God-likeness. No one should live in fear or pain. Our world would be a better place if we all pay attention to possible abusive relationships and have the courage to offer a helping hand.

Ray failed. Integrity is seen when who you are in private matches who you are and what you say in public.

You may have given up on Ray. I get it. But I’m glad that God hasn’t given up on me.

There is hope for Ray and there is hope for any perpetrator of violent crime.

There is hope in Jesus. “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9

The truth is that when we take personal responsibility by confessing our mistakes to God, turning away from them, and receiving the grace of Jesus – we are forgiven.

This brings us to one of the most difficult questions, “With evil in our world, how can a loving God exist?”

In much the same way that: cold is the absence of heat, dark is the absence of light…evil is the absence of God’s love.

When we struggle to understand how God’s love can be involved in a situation like this, I believe that we are ready to grow stronger in two of the most important ultimate truths of our history: God’s Grace & Our Responsibility.

God’s grace goes beyond our expectation. It forgives what we believe to be un-forgivable. The truth is that God’s healing and forgiveness are complete. They go beyond human comprehension. At times they are instantly complete and in other occasions the process takes a while.

Yet each of us has a personal responsibility.

Martin Luther wrote, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone.”

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul writes a letter to friends explaining our personal responsibility to thank God with our actions.

James wrote, “Faith without works is dead.”

 Let’s not get this mixed up. Let’s not be religious people.

A religious person says about God, “I obey; therefore I’m accepted.”

A person following Jesus says, “I’m accepted; therefore I obey.”

A religious person says, “I obey God in order to get things from God.”

A person following Jesus says, “I obey God to get God – to delight and resemble him.”      (Thank you Tim Keller for the quotes.)

Each of us bears the responsibility to confess our mistakes, receive the forgiveness of Jesus, and respond to His love by following Him, see Matthew 9:9-13. This may include us taking action to right our wrongs.

Yes, a punch from Ray Rice became like any other Baltimore violent crime.

Yes, there is hope.

Yes, there’s hope for “Lil’ Ray” and we would welcome him in our home and in our church.

…and we welcome both the victims and people who make mistakes (including the perpetrators of violent crime) into our home and church as well.

There’s hope in Jesus! Hope that includes a life without violence, a life of peace and laughter, a life of becoming who God designed you to be, a life of doing good that God planned long ago!

 

 

 

One more note about Baltimore crime:

Please let me be clear, there is nothing in this world like the tragedy of a parent burying their child. Worse yet, the horror faced by roughly 300 families each year in Baltimore City of burying a loved one lost to murder. We serve those families with Baltimore’s Mother’s Cry. I’ve met the mothers. Raising two children in Baltimore City, I simply cannot imagine anything worse than suffering a stray bullet like the parents of three year old McKenzie in a neighborhood near us recently. Domestic abuse can lead to murder. It must stop. My purpose here is not to comment on the issue of murder. No one should live in fear and pain. God’s design for us is much better! Grace and peace to you today.

 

 


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