The Ray Rice saga continues to unfold on every channel in front of our “inquiring minds want to know” world. In a culture where the ever-present watching eyes of video cameras make crimes, mistakes, and man’s darker side more visible and graphic than ever before, it’s easy to stand in judgment. From beheadings in the Middle East to spousal abuse in elevators, from war’s collateral damage in Gaza to the extreme response of police officers, replays of these harsh realities assault our senses and trigger strong emotional reactions.
Justice is necessary but seldom perfect. Spousal abuse should never be condoned. Consequences are warranted, and offenders should pay for their actions. But can people take responsibility, work to change, and bounce back to learn from such wrongdoings, or must lives of the guilty be ruined?
Even as the Ravens fired Ray Rice, his coach, John Harbaugh, was asked if he still stood by his earlier statement of support: “The thing I appreciate about it is how Ray has handled it afterward by acknowledging it was wrong, and he’ll do everything he can do to make it right. That’s what you ask for when someone does a wrong thing. So, I’m proud of him for that.” Harbaugh replied, “I believe that still, and I’ll always believe those things and always stand in support of them as a couple, and that’s not going to change.”
But it has changed. Ray Rice is fired. He’s suspended from the NFL indefinitely, and the Ravens have offered to exchange any of his Ravens jerseys to fans who wish to disown them.
After the video of him knocking her unconscious was released Monday by TMZ, Ray Rice’s wife, Janay, defended her husband. She criticized the media and the public for “unwanted opinions” and making her and husband “relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day.” Confessing that it has been a “nightmare” since the footage surfaced, she wrote: “If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on many levels.” Janay promised, “We will continue to grow and show the world what real love is.”
Could it be that it is not only Ray Rice who needs to be accountable for his actions. There are lessons to be learned by all of us—lessons of accountability, self-righteousness, redemption and forgiveness.
Here’s an NFL translation of the famed Biblical passage, John 8:2-11:
At dawn, Jesus appeared at the stadium entrance and sat down to teach those who would listen. Suddenly, clamoring media, angry fans, and yelling critics gathered around him dragging Ray Rice to where Jesus was sitting. They made Ray stand before Jesus, the media cameras, and the growing crowd. One talk show host said, “Jesus, this man was caught in the act of spousal abuse. We have video footage to prove his savagery. By any moral standard, his job should be taken away, his life ruined. Some want him stoned to death. What do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to justify their own actions.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at him.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time until only Jesus was left, with the Ray Rice still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked him, “Ray, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“None that remain, Jesus,” he said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
As Ray Rice left with his wife Janay to pick up the pieces of their lives and start to earn back the trust and respect his actions had cost him, the clamoring crowd and eager media returned with another man. The shouts were louder, the makeup of the cloud somewhat changed. The color of the man’s skin they dragged was different, but the anger the same. His name was Darren Wilson, a police officer from Ferguson, Missouri.
Before they could speak to him, Jesus put his face in his hands and wept.