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Ray Lewis thanks God for Super Bowl opportunity

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis (R) celebrates with teammate Chris Johnson (L) after winning the NFL football AFC Championship football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013 (Credit: Reuters / Jim Young)

Ray Lewis is one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.  Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, he has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls.  He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003.

His path has not been easy, however.  In January 2000 he was involved in a fight that led to two deaths.  He was fined $250,000 by the NFL after he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice.  Six years later, he gave an extensive interview to Sports Illustrated in which he discussed his life and faith, a commitment to Christ he has made very public in recent years.

During the National Anthem on Sunday, Lewis tearfully mouthed what looked to be the phrase, “thank you my Father” before his team defeated New England to win the AFC Championship.  Afterwards, he told reporters, “God doesn’t make mistakes.  He’s never made one mistake. . . . God is so amazing.”

His coach, John Harbaugh, says of Lewis, “I’m just feeling an incredible amount of awe in the work that God can do in one man’s life.  To me, Ray is the epitome of that.  Ray is a guy that has turned everything over.  He’s surrendered everything and become the man that he is today and he’s a different man than he was at 22.  Everybody sees that right now and it’s a great thing for kids to see, it’s a great thing for fathers to see.  It’s a great thing for athletes to see.  It’s a very special deal.”

It’s no surprise that Harbaugh would see God in Lewis’s life.  The coach is a lifelong Catholic, a Christian whose faith is central to his life.  His brother says of John, “His relationship with God is the thing he leans on whenever he has tough times.”  Harbaugh attends a weekly Bible study at the Ravens’ team facility with his fellow coaches.  His brother, Jim, is also a strong Catholic Christian and will be opposing him on Super Bowl Sunday as coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

James Davison Hunter’s excellent study, To Change the World, convinced me that culture changes when believers achieve their highest position of influence and then live faithfully as “salt and light” Christians (Matthew 5:13-16).  Dr. Hunter advises us to “manifest faithful presence,” showing the reality of our faith by living consistently for Jesus where he has placed us today.

When we do, the culture takes note.  It doesn’t take much light to change the dark.  If we would see our influence as our mission field, and ask God to use us there for his greatest glory, our lives would make an impact only eternity can measure.

You and I do not have Ray Lewis’s platform, but he doesn’t have ours, either.  What is your Kingdom assignment today?