Sterling, the NBA, Racism and the Image of God

My son is a big basketball fan and first thing every morning checks the results from the NBA play-offs. In his report to me this morning I was informed that the Chicago Bulls are now out. But during this exciting play-off season another story has been getting lots of coverage. The owner of one of the teams, Donald Sterling of the LA Clippers, has been caught on tape making racist remarks. If you don’t know what he said you don’t need to know. It was pretty ugly. The outrage over his remarks has been loud and vigorous. People have made it clear that racial remarks are unacceptable in today’s society. The commissioner of the NBA has now banned Sterling from anything associated with the NBA and will force him to sell his team. What is it that causes people to be racist, or make racist remarks? Why do some people see others as having less value or worth? There is certainly nothing new about racism. In Numbers 12 we read that Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, spoke out against him because he had married a Cushite woman. She was a black African and the family didn’t approve. But God was not upset with the marriage, rather he was angry with Aaron and Miriam for showing disrespect. At the heart of a racist perspective is an attitude that says some of God’s people are worth more than others. It’s disrespect towards people who are made in the image of God. We judge others on the basis of their looks, education, social status, productivity and a host of other things. But when we assign value or worth based on those judgments we are on dangerous ground. Every person bears the ‘imago Dei’, the image of God. Even in our fallen world we have value and worth because we have been created by God. (Genesis 1:27) One of the things I love about my church is the wide diversity I see every Sunday morning when I look out over the congregation. I can’t help but think that in heaven every tribe and nation, every color of skin, every linguist group, and people of all different walks of life will be gathered around the throne of Jesus. Why? Because he loves people, all people, and he came to redeem us to himself. He sees each individual as being full of worth and value. There is no hierarchy. At the foot of the cross, we are all equal.   So racist remarks aren’t just culturally unacceptable or politically incorrect, they reveal a sinful heart. We must be diligent to root out such attitudes and actions that would harm others. Regular examination and confession is required. 

What does today hold?

He got up and went to work one morning last week but he never came home. While working on the job, as an electrician, he was severely injured and died as a result of the accident. The company he worked for has offered their condolences to his family and launched an inquiry into workplace safety. His name was not released. Each morning when we wake up we have no idea of what lies ahead. We have no idea how the day will unfold. Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” How true. And James says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” (James 4:13-14) Some people interpret those verses to mean that we should take a very casual approach to life. Since anything could happen why plan too much? We should live each day as if it’s our last. But we also find verses that encourage us to think ahead and plan for the future. We aren’t to live recklessly but rather with wisdom and sober thought.  That leads some people to the other extreme – everything is over planned and life becomes narrow and rigid. So how then do we spend our days? I am not sure that I have it all figured out. It seems to me that we need to hope, dream and plan for the future. Then we need to live that out one day at a time. We must hold those plans loosely, knowing that God is sovereign over all and he alone knows how the day will turn out.  James says we should plan but also ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (4:15) It’s humbling at times to admit we don’t control it all but there’s a freedom that comes from committing our days to God. When we do that we are confessing that we are not the masters of our own fate but rather we serve the creator of the universe. We acknowledge that we are his creatures in need of his provision. And because God alone knows all that will happen to us, we can trust him with whatever comes to pass today.