Thoughts from Pastor Travis: More "Dribble" From Travis

I know it should be “drivel.”  It’s a basketball joke... You’ll get it in a minute...
 
It seems like there’s a media storm bordering on a hurricane going on right now, & this time it’s all about racism.  I’m sure most of you have caught at least some of the controversy around Donald Sterling, owner of the L.A. Clippers.  He made some very racial comments to his girlfriend in what he thought was a private conversation.  She recorded the conversation – about 15 minutes long – and it was released to the media.  The fallout has been tremendous.  NBA players have threatened to strike if he is not forced to sell the Clippers.  The NBA has banned him for life and fined him $2.5 million, and are considering forcing him to sell.  Of course, he has refused to pay the fine and still claims not to be “a racist”.
 
I don’t bring this subject up to debate the morality of Donald Sterling’s actions.  His words were obviously very hurtful to some, ignorant of the truths of racial equality, and contrary to the message of the NBA as a whole.  I don’t even want to debate the Freedom of Speech, which is something our culture seems to stand for unless it is on certain topics (and though this isn’t one of those times, there are many instances when Christians find themselves on the receiving end of that firestorm).
 
Rather, I want to talk about the way this whole mess is being handled, & what that tells us about society.  Specifically, I want to talk about the concept of “Tolerance”.  A working definition of the concept of tolerance is “holding a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own.”  This may be the single greatest value that our culture holds right now.  It is seen as the road to peace and harmony.  The only thing that isn’t tolerated is intolerance itself.
 
Here’s the problem – tolerance as it is practiced today can only be applied to outward displays of one’s views.  Although we would never teach it this way, Tolerance allows anyone to hate their brother, hate other races, hate other religions, hate gays & lesbians, hate anybody & everybody, as long as it is kept internal.  Tolerance accepts the idea that a person’s opinions & attitudes can’t be changed – in fact it is built on that belief – and simply tries to keep everything calm on the outside.
 
That works for awhile, but we don’t know what to do when that wall is breached.  Donald Sterling’s incriminating words were thought to have been private – he never would have said them on a public stage.  But that means that we take this now-public rant is a picture of his true self.  Nothing he can say now will be taken as a true reflection of his self.  Nothing he can say or do will convince the public that he is not a racist. 
 
Since Tolerance is built on the foundational belief that we can’t really change people – only ignore them – then we don’t know what to do when the real person comes out & it is ugly.  (We could also get into the psychological beliefs today that everyone is a “Good Person” and that sin is an illusion.  We don’t know what to do when the real person comes out & it is sinful.  Many sins our culture dismisses, but a few we have made absolute – racism & cruelty to animals, for example).
 
If people can’t be changed or believed, then the only recourse is to punish them.  Take away whatever they have.  Why would the NBA have the right to fine Sterling $25 million?  Let’s take away his money & his team (even though that will bank him a LOT of money!) and remove him from our presence.  Let’s do whatever we can to hurt this man.  We want blood.  We are self-righteous & we are angry.  For this special dispensation, we don’t have to show Tolerance to this man!
 
Add to the mix that Donald Sterling has issued a public apology.  He has said, “I was wrong.  I caused this whole mess and it’s my fault.”  But we don’t know how to take it.  We can’t trust a heart-change.  Maybe he’s just sorry he got caught, or sorry for himself that he has to go through all this.  So we ignore the apology & keep going.
 
So how would Jesus call on us to react differently?  This is really the crux of the matter, right?  The Kingdom of God is different from the status quo.  We are called to be different, & to respond differently, right?  Think about these verses, and their context.  Think about what they mean to you in your life, & how to express that to those around you.
 
 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

John 8:7 ESV

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Romans 12:9 ESV

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Matthew 6:14-15 ESV

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Romans 5:8 ESV

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

This suggests to me that Christians are called to something much deeper & more difficult than Tolerance.  We are called to approach one another knowing we are all sinners.  We have failed to live up to the standards God has set before us.  Some of us have sinned more publically than others.  Some of us have faced more earthly consequences or punishments than others.  And we don’t all sin in the same way.  But we are all sinners.
 
God loves us anyway.  He doesn’t dismiss our sin.  But he loves us for who we are, for who he created us to be.  He loves us so much that he sought to get rid of that sin, to save us from it so that it wouldn’t be a weight around our necks anymore.  That’s what Jesus did for us on the cross.  He took the guilt of our sin for us.  He forgives us, when we let him, which means that he takes the debt we owe on himself.
 
Jesus paid the debt & forgave me for my sins, & they aren’t a few.  Jesus paid the debt for the sins of all of us.  He even paid the debt for the racial slurs & attitudes of Donald Sterling.  Whether Donald Sterling or anyone else has accepted that gift of forgiveness is not between you & I.
 
Jesus calls us to share this forgiveness with others, with the world.  That means that we stand up for Truth – we never dismiss sin as if it isn’t real, & we stand up justice, and we stand up for forgiveness.  Hard call to make.  In this example, Sterling has offered an apology.  We don’t know if it’s real.  But we don’t know if it’s not.  Singer Todd Agnew says that “loving my neighbor & loving my enemy says something about him/her, more about me, & a whole lot more about You [Jesus].”
 
Perhaps most importantly, Jesus wants to change us from the inside out.  He doesn’t want to help us just stuff our sinfulness deeper inside of ourselves.  He wants to bring it out & deal with it & change us.  That’s what I need, & I think it’s what we all need.  Loving each other means helping each other find that freedom in Christ, even if it means coming across as Intolerant or judgmental.  If we approach each other in love, from the understanding that we are all sinners seeking Jesus together, then God will bless it.
 
I’ve rambled on.  When it comes down to it, I want to encourage us as Christians to look for ways to engage the world through a Christlike approach – not mimic the world’s approach to things & not just ignore it either. 
 
Thanks,
Pastor Travis
Copyright 2014, Canyon Ridge Baptist Church
4608 Rist Canyon Road, PO Box 294, Bellvue, CO 80512-0294