Ray Lewis is half right.

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“If God is for us, who can stand against us?” retorted Ray Lewis to a reporter’s question about how he won the Super big game played in a stadium shaped like a Bowl. Really Ray?! Honestly I was a little pissed. What a stupid thing to say. What bad theology. Do you really believe God picked you, Ray? Forget about Mr. Lewis’s well documented trouble with the law or his pregame hysterics. Put aside any personal like or dislike for the now retired linebacker for the Ravens.  It was this ridiculous statement that irked me and caused me to make that disapproving “tisk” sound through my teeth like a Midwestern grandmother.

The humor twitter account Unvirtuous Abbey may have tweeted it best:

Twitter Post

After my judgmental cacophonous noise making, I instantly thought about Jim Harbaugh, the losing coach of the big game. Following Ray’s line of thinking, the God of the universe pre-ordained John Harbaugh (coach of the winning Ravens) to defeat his brother Jim in a football game.  I’m not sure who is Cain and who is Abel in this, but the logic follows that Jim is God’s enemy and John is the righteous and worthy champion of goodness and light. Come to think of it, the entire 49ers organization must be fallen rebels, akin to Lucifer and his cohorts.  Who can stand against Ray Lewis and God? Not the 49ers, the devils they are.

Fully pleased with my exaggerated self-righteousness, and even more pleased that I kept it to myself and only privately judged this man and his words, I promptly turned off the TV and played Ruzzle for 45 minutes. But something wasn’t right. Maybe it was the nachos or homemade honey mustard sauce, or maybe it was that still small voice that speaks to the deepest parts of ourselves when we haven’t uncovered God’s full story, but something wasn’t letting me rest comfortably in my righteous indignation.

Finally I found it. Ray is half right. God is for Ray Lewis. God desires the absolute best for Ray. God loves Ray Lewis beyond measure. God is also for Jim Harbaugh, even though he didn’t win the shiny football trophy. God is for the 24,000 children who will die today from preventable diseases resulting from unclean drinking water. I have no doubt God will weep for them. God will also weep because we didn’t do anything to stop it.

God is for me. God is for you.

Ray is also half wrong.  God doesn’t love Ray more than Colin Kaepernick. God didn’t choose the Ravens over the 49s.

Fortune doesn’t equal blessing.

God doesn’t prove his love for us through worldly fortune. To believe that is to say God doesn’t love the poor, vulnerable, marginalized, abused, hungry, thirsty, or dying. To say that is stupid and bad theology. Quite frankly it goes against everything Jesus said and did.

God is for all of us and no one can stand against us, and sometimes we lose. God being for us doesn’t always look like winning. Jesus on the cross didn’t look like winning. God is for us, when it comes to what is best for us. Winning the Championship might not be what is best for us.

And here is the key; God has bigger plans for us than our earthly mini-battles.  God has bigger plans for Ray Lewis than football champion. I’m not talking about Ray retiring and becoming a minister or founding a youth sports organization or helping out families in Baltimore. I’m talking about forever.

God’s big plan for all of us is heaven. God being for us is only completed and perfectly experienced in heaven, forever. God is for us spending that forever with him in eternal praise and total bliss. God is for us experiencing the beatific vision.

God is for us going to heaven. When we choose God, nothing can stop us from spending forever with Him.

Love really well

I couldn’t get it out of my head.  It was a simple enough phrase, but one I am not sure I had ever heard before.

“He loves really well.”

A couple of days ago I heard a talk at a youth minister’s gathering here in Minnesota. The talk wasn’t earth shattering, but for some reason I couldn’t get this phrase out of my head.  “He loves really well.”

I went to youth group in the 90’s so of course I know the ridiculously dated DC Talk song Luv is a Verb (Here is the video if you

dc talk 1989

Luv is a Verb, even in 1989.

dare.) I know that love is something I do, not something I have. I know that the greatest act of love is Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross. I get the concept, but I honestly had never heard someone qualify another’s ability to love.  “He loves really well” got me thinking about how one could love well or poorly.  Even as I write this, I feel like an idiot – this isn’t new information.

Why was this phrase blowing my mind?  I’m not sure I have an answer yet. What I do know is that I want to love really well.

I don’t want to just love sufficiently.  I want to love really well.

Can you imagine turning to your spouse on your wedding day and saying, “I love you honey. I love you just enough so that you aren’t too frustrated with me.  I love you just enough so that you don’t complain too much about me to your friends.  I want to love you just sufficiently.”  Can you imagine looking your children in the eye and saying, “ My darling children, I love you.  I love you just enough so that you aren’t lacking for anything too critical. I love you just a little bit beyond where you could blame me in future counseling sessions.  I love you just sufficiently.”

How selfish?  No one would say those things.  But I know that I often love just sufficiently.  Love is really hard work, and my laziness often leads me to love just enough.

We all love God just sufficiently sometimes.

When it comes to God, we often don’t love really well.  We often sound like this, “God, I love you.  I love you just enough to pray for 2 minutes this Sunday even though I can’t get to Mass because I have a tournament.  I love you just enough to be generous with my friends even though I am not so good to my family. God I love you just enough that I won’t go ‘all the way’ with my girlfriend even though we have done pretty much everything but that.”  We say with our words that we love God totally, while our lives scream, “What is just enough ‘loving God’ so that I don’t go to hell”?

Loving someone just sufficiently isn’t love – it’s self-service.  Doing for others just enough to get what we want is using them.  So often our faith practice is about getting what we want, loving God only sufficiently.

There is good news.

God doesn’t love just sufficiently – God loves very, very well.  God loves abundantly, overwhelmingly, totally, completely, unconditionally, ridiculously, irrationally, freely, and forever.  And if someone can “love really well,” that means it is possible to get better at it. I can turn it around. I can love better tomorrow than I did today. I can love better tonight that I did the rest of the day.  The good news is that God loves perfectly and by God’s grace, we can love better.

Love really well today.