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Ray Rice,Trolls, Jesus,and Me.

September 10, 2014

As much as I wish that my mind worked in a logical way, progressing through a subject with methodical care, I’ve learned that it doesn’t.  It tends to be more like a stone skipped across the surface of the water, haphazardly touching down here and there.  Hence the title above.

It all started as I’ve been pondering the horrifying incident of Ray Rice and his knocking out of his then girlfriend, now wife.  In the last few days the video of the actual knockout punch has surfaced, triggering off a new round of horror and recrimination.  Coverage is all over the news and we’ve seen expert after expert weighing in.

It turns out that domestic violence has a peculiar characteristic; everybody, absolutely everybody, is against it but somehow it goes on and on. Domestic violence experts are unanimous on one point; no matter what he says or does, if Rice hit her once he will hit her again.  Which brings us to the trolls.

In the movie Frozen Kristoff brings Anna, who has had her heart frozen by Elsa, to his troll family to be healed.  The madcap trolls however have another goal in mind, to get Kristoff hitched because, after all, “He brought a girl!” home.  They launch into the song “Fixer Upper” to bring this match about.  At one point in their zany song they give this line:

“We’re not sayin’ you can change him, ’cause people don’t really change.”

In this, they echo the domestic violence experts. But unlike those experts they don’t stop there.  They go on, giving hope.

“People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed.  But throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best”

If you listen to Rice, and particularly to his wife, Janay, this is where they are at now.  She says:

To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing…. Just know we will continue to grow and show the world what real love is!”

So who is right?  The experts?  Or Janay Rice and the trolls?  Can Ray Rice change?  Or is he destined to life as an abuser of women?

We Christians not only believe in change, we see it as foundational to our faith.  We desire to be “Christ-like.”  We endorse the theology of sanctification, which most of us believe is progressive; a lifelong process.  St. Paul, in Romans 7, makes it clear that he agrees with the trolls’ “people don’t really change” (Or rather they agree with him since he was first.) but he doesn’t hesitate to exhort and encourage his readers toward growth.

We Christians are sure we have found the key to this conundrum; the Holy Spirit.  He is able to overcome the “people don’t really change” roadblock for Christians and “bring out their best.”   The trouble is that, all too often, something goes wrong.  Even though the Spirit lives within us and we have his power we fail and demonstrate that the domestic violence experts, and any other sin experts, are often right.  Why is that?  Why do we strive to be imitators of Christ and fail so miserably so often?

I tend to think that, in our attempts to be Christ-like (Or for that matter in the attempts of others to “walk the straight and narrow.”) we end up being more like Adam (and Eve) than Christ.  The temptation to “be like God, knowing good and evil,” is with us today.  We think we know what is right.  We turn Christ-likeness into a knowledge issue.  We become self-declared experts commenting on how to do it, what steps to take.

Domestic violence experts are pessimistic about Rice for with good reason.  My wife works for a ministry to abused women around the world and she will tell you that, first and foremost, you must get the abuse victim to safety and urgently caution her about the likelihood of continued abuse.

But Janay and Ray Rice seem to have emotionally moved past that.  They have made their decision and seem committed to showing the world “what real love is.”  Perhaps they will.  I don’t know.  But predictions of failure, and dire consequences, will not help them now.  All that we can do now is “throw a little love their way”; a love that includes cautions, warnings and the assurance that we want what is best for them, individually and as a couple.

How do we, in our attempts at Christ-likeness, avoid the pitfall of assuming that this is a knowledge-based effort?  How do we avoid the fate of thinking we are capable, in our puny humanity, of truly being god-like in our knowledge, of knowing what we and others need to do?

I can’t help but think that, when Jesus came to earth, one of his goals was to provide a living example of what being Christ-like actually looks like.  It isn’t about knowledge.  In fact, his most scathing rebukes were for knowledge-based religious experts.   It is about imitating Jesus.  Maybe in looking at the Jesus of Gospels we are really looking at the only example of what it really means to “throw a little love their way.”


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Sue permalink

    I just this morning noticed 1Cor. 8:1b ….Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. The context is different, but I think it is so true to this situation you write of here. Thanks, Tom.

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