By: Pastor Mary Beth Hartenstein

Perhaps only the most die-hard fans knew his name or even the team he played for until just a few days ago and now the name, Ray Rice, has been plastered throughout the various forms of media at our disposal.  The twenty-seven year old running back, who played for the Baltimore Ravens pro football team until his release from the team and his indefinite suspension from the National Football League (NFL).

In February, the couple had an altercation where both Rice and his then fiancé, Janay Palmer, hit one another and both were charged with simple assault. Later, Rice had his charge changed to third-degree aggravated assault. In July, the commissioner of the NFL handed down a two-game suspension to Rice. What has changed in the last forty-eight hours is the release of a video from the casino where the event took place where Rice is seen, in a rather graphic video, punching Palmer. Raven’s coach, Jim Harbaugh, said regarding the video’s release, “It was something we saw for the first time today, all of us. It changed things, of course. It made things a little bit different.”

I am wondering why the release of the video has made all the difference. The facts of the case have not changed over the last few days. Yet it seems that “seeing is believing” and now our own eyes have seen what transpired in those early morning hours was unacceptable whereas before it was just something that was printed on the page.  Perhaps that saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” really is true.

No human being ought to be treated in a disrespectful way by another human being. Violence ought not to be tolerated.  Yet, over and over again, we find ourselves reading, hearing, and seeing that hurting one another seems to be a part of the very fabric of our being.  Even in the earliest pictures on cave walls or in the earliest stories recorded, there is evidence that violence against one another has been a part of our humanity.

No wonder it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus says this when asked what is the greatest commandment,“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Perhaps even then, Jesus could see that this was an issue that needed to be addressed.