The above video has caught the world by storm this week. In it, All-Pro running back, Ray Rice, of the Baltimore Ravens knocks out his then fiancee with a left hook and drags her crumpled body out of the elevator. This would be the perfect time for all of us to throw stones at him: he is a rich and famous person who got caught on video doing the unthinkable. Only a child molester would be seen in a worse light. And so the tweets and Facebook posts have been plentiful, calling him everything from douche bag to other creative words. Meanwhile, those with $ have backed off of him: the Ravens, the NFL, Nike, and other endorsers. His popularity is at an all-time low with the Ravens even doing a jersey buy-back or trade-in with anyone who has a Rice jersey. The last time I saw that, it was happening with convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots.
It’s a lot easier to keep the spotlight on the bad guy. It’s all about appearances anyhow, right? After all, as Chris Rock aptly said, “Just to be clear, Ray Rice was not fired for beating his wife. He was fired because a video of him beating his wife was released.” Everyone else is in damage control mode — keeping the focus on the villain.
Given all that, I was struck by the response of two Pittsburgh Steelers. William Gay whose mother was murdered trying to escape from an abusive husband said Ray Rice needs help above all, “so we have to do everything we can to help him.” That had power to it given his life context. But it was Troy Polamalu’s response that grabbed me.
“Unfortunately, I’ve seen the video,” Polamalu said. “But I have a lot of issues of my own that I deal with. In truth, I couldn’t judge him on anything, because I’m defiled by as many passions and sins and more than him, most likely. I have my own struggles. And, obviously, he’s got his own struggles. And we all have our own struggles. So, I can’t look past my own struggles to judge him.”
The Steeler’s blog I lifted this quote from had its writer say, “What is he talking about?” I get the confusion. By all means, this is sheer ridiculousness to the world that has its hierarchy of moral sins. What I love about Polamalu’s response is how Jesus-centered it is. By that I mean that it comes straight from the sacred teachings of Jesus who taught us to severely examine ourselves and to have compassion and mercy on the sins of others. Polamalu is doing just that: focusing on the plank in his own eye instead of the sizable speck in Ray Rice’s. He is also pulling out the m.o. of Jesus when the woman caught in adultery was taken before him. He told them that the sinless one should throw the first stone.
When the gospel of Jesus Christ is allowed to take its subversive self-killing message to full expression, it removes the rock from our throwing hand and causes us to look in the mirror. Is the world ready for this kind of compassion, humility, authenticity, and vulnerability?