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. 

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