Over the last few weeks I have been watching the drama unfold around Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA team LA Clippers. A recently released audio recording of Mr. Sterling and his mistress has revealed Mr. Sterling to be a blatant racist. This has come as no surprise to many because in the past Mr. Sterling has been in legal trouble over business practices that showed bigotry and prejudice. Even with his past, the remarks on this recording were shocking, revealing a heart full of hatred. The NBA commissioner has responded by passing a life-long ban on Mr. Sterling from anything NBA. He also fined him 2.5 million dollars (the largest fine possible under NBA regulations), and said that he would be lobbying for the governing board to force Mr. Sterling out of ownership of the Clippers. The backlash on social media has been a firestorm, with everybody weighing in, from “Magic” Johnson, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and your next door neighbor.
This incident has made something apparent: that racism is still alive. Gone are the two public water fountains, segregated schools, and Jim Crowe, but racism isn’t gone. The problem is that racism will never ultimately leave either. It is unacceptable in our society, and is no longer supported by local governments. However, one thing legislation will never be able to change is a man’s heart, and herein lies the problem. Racism comes from a sinful heart. There is racism found in every culture. As long as there are sinful men in a culture that culture will have racism or bigotry to some degree or another. It might be full-blown and resulting in genocide as we have seen in Germany in the 30’s and 40’s, or it might be more subtle, but it will be there.
There is only one answer for racism, and that is the Gospel. Mankind needs a heart change and this change is found only in Christ. Jesus crossed some big race barriers in his day. He spoke to the Samaritan women; He healed a Roman Centurion’s servant, and the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. Not only that, but Jesus commanded his Jewish disciples to take the Gospel message to everyone, to the world. Because Jesus died for the world, not just His nation but all nations; not just His race but all races. Jesus died for the oppressed and the oppressor. Jesus died for everyone, including racists.
The Gospel message that Jesus told his disciples to proclaim is not the social gospel, or the self-help gospel that we see pandered in many of today’s churches. Rather it is the message that Jesus is victorious. He is victorious over everything. In His life He was victorious over sin (including racism which was rampant in His culture). In His death He was victorious over the grave because God raised Him from the dead. see Romans 1:4. Because Christ lived the life that He lived and died the death that He died, we (sinners, because that is what all of us are) can be forgiven of all our sins, because Christ died as our substitute. When, by faith, one trusts Christ’s life and sacrifice as payment for his sin, and turns from his sin in repentance, God saves him and gives him the heart transformation that is so desperately needed.
Though I am in support of the NBA commissioner’s judgement against Mr. Sterling, a ban for life, a huge fine, and losing ownership of his team won’t change Donald Sterling. He needs a heart transformation, and that is available only through the Gospel.