Henry Ruggs is in a lot of trouble. Like, A LOT of trouble. A week ago today (11.02.2021) he was involved in a car accident that left a 23 year old woman and her dog dead. Since the tragedy, authorities have learned that Ruggs was driving under the influence (twice the legal limit) at 156 miles per hour. In addition, a firearm was found (which a big “no-no” if you are under the influence) and new felony counts have emerged of DUI and reckless driving due to injuries suffered by his girlfriend who was also in the car. Almost immediately, the Las Vegas Raiders cut the accused wide receiver from the team. To say the future looks bleak for Ruggs is a massive understatement. Like I said, he is in a lot of trouble.
As you can imagine, the internet blew up. Everyone and everybody reacting with disdain toward Ruggs and condolences toward the family of the one who lost her life. It’s what is expected. Ruggs was doing something he should not have been doing. Actually, a lot of something’s he shouldn’t have been doing. An innocent life was taken for no good reason. A filthy rich NFL player seemingly abusing all privileges and recklessly claiming a life. Shame is being heaped upon this former football star left and right.
It’s the narrative we hear from everywhere. It’s the narrative we tell ourselves. It’s the narrative the world preaches. It’s the narrative the snake has been screaming at us from moment one in the garden. It’s the narrative that is at the bottom and core of who we are. GUILTY. We may not have done all that Henry Ruggs did last week, to that extent in a car under the influence. But we know what he feels like. We may not have the internet blowing us up and our team cutting us from the roster, but we hear the voices. GUILTY. Ruggs has his shortcomings plastered for the world to see. We don’t, but we still fear being exposed for who we really are.
It’s what is expected. We do wrong. We mess up. And the voices get loud. Done. Finished. Evil. Sick. Alone. Deserved pain. Unloved. Despised. Guilty. And as if it’s not enough to hear this from others and the voices from our own heads, we believe this is the posture God has toward us. Condemned. Hopeless. Punished. Done. Guilty. Like I said, it’s the narrative that seems to be at the core of who we are.
Then, out of nowhere, the kingdom of heaven appears. The current quarterback for the Raiders is Derek Carr. I don’t know much about him. But when I read how he responded to Ruggs, my heart leaped. It makes me want to get to know him. Of the tragedy and Ruggs being cut from the team, Carr said: “For whatever reason, that got me. Like, like, he’s not going to be there. . . (I’ll miss him) not because he’s fast, not because of what he could do for me, but because of the person that he is and because I love him.” The franchise quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders said he would miss Henry Ruggs because of the person that he is and because he loves him. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. In another place, Carr said of Ruggs, “He needs people to love him right now. He’s probably feeling a certain way about himself right now and he needs to be loved. If no one else will do it, I’ll do it.”
Out of nowhere, the Gospel appears. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. The Person and Spirit of Jesus put on display through Derek Carr. What each of us long for, what each of us so desperately need, what all of us crave – revealed in the words of the Raiders quarterback. Shock. Scandal. Surprise. Grace.
One of Carr’s best receivers is cut from the team for doing super stupid stuff. Carr is going to have to navigate the rest of the season without a key weapon to catch the ball. Everyone is (and to an extent, rightfully so) furious at Ruggs for being so selfish and dumb and downright idiotic. What has already been a very difficult season for the Raiders is getting worse by the second. If anyone has a reason to be angry, it is Derek Carr. You expect judgment and criticism and condemnation. You expect fury and rage and a posture of “it’s not fair!” Instead there is grace: “not because of what he can do for me, but because of the person that he is and because I love him. . . he needs to be loved. If no one else will do it, I’ll do it.” The kingdom of heaven is like . . . like this.
In case you are wondering, as ludicrous as it sounds, Carr’s response toward Ruggs is a mirror – a picture – of how God responds to you. On your worst days, during your worst moments, God wants to be with you. When everyone (including yourself) hates you and declares you guilty – God loves the person you are. When no one else will love you, He will. Carr took the risk of loving this way with a microphone and cameras in his face. The Father demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were/are at our worst – He sent Jesus to take on the punishment. You and I need someone to love us right now. Because of Jesus, we are always and will forever be loved. The kingdom of heaven is near.