Glass Houses, Donald Sterling and Sin

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Glass Houses

There’s an old proverb (not in the Bible) that says, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

There are multiple interpretations of what this means, but I think in simple terms it means that we should be aware of our own vulnerability when exposing the vulnerability of others; lest we succumb to the same damage as they.

No doubt, with the explosion of social media (and technology in general), we have access to information like never before; and not just information, but we have access to the lives (public and private) of others.  There’s something beautiful about being able to connect and share moments with brothers I met in Nigeria back in 2009 or family across the country; in real time.  There’s something equally disturbing to know that at any moment, my privacy can be compromised and my life exposed to the world.  THE WORLD!!!

I know that the easy response to that would go something like this, “Well Terry, maybe you should just watch what you say, text, do, post and you will be good!”

I definitely agree with that statement.  I 100% believe that I am the one who is ultimately responsible for what I say, text, do and post.  So yes, if I don’t want the messy, ugly, raggedness of my life and sin to be exposed, I should keep it to myself. However…that can’t be the final answer.  I’ll return to this thought at the end.

Donald Sterling

I started this post this way because once again we have been confronted with the ugliness that social media can reveal; this time the victim is the controversial Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.  I did not make a mistake in calling him a “victim”.  Let’s be honest, this information came out without his permission and what was thought to be a private conversation was made public without his consent.  In that sense, yes, he is a victim.  Unfortunately for him, that’s where it ends.   What that conversation revealed is what many have believed for years; Mr. Sterling has some issues.  Most notably, issues dealing with how he feels about other races.  Whether he was baited into the conversation or not, he said what he said.  In the heat of the moment, his heart was revealed.

Sinful Hearts

Often times, when we say things we shouldn’t say, we rationalize them by claiming that because of the heat and pressure of the moment, “we say things we don’t really mean.”  I have to disagree with that statement. Not because I want to, but because I have to. I want to be able to negate the filth that comes out of my mouth and relegate it to just “moments of passion”; but I can’t. No one can.  Not if these words are true (and I believe they are):

“A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” – Jesus (Luke 6:45)

If Jesus is correct (and He most definitely is), Mr. Sterling, myself and you are without excuse.  What Donald Sterling said revealed what is really going on his heart.  At our AWANA program, the kids learn that the definition of the heart is, “the real you.”  The tricky thing about the heart though is that it all is over the place and we never really know its condition until things like this come up (see Jeremiah 17:9).

The scary thing about this whole situation is that if the recording never came out, an 80 year old man would be going about his daily life with a heart filled with hatred, bitterness, pride and many other things that we would have never known about (for the most part).  Now that we do know, he has to be held responsible for his words and actions.  As far as what that looks like concerning his ownership of the Clippers and his tenure with the NBA, I trust the best decision will be made.   I also truly believe that this is an opportunity for Donald Sterling to respond to God’s cosmic and personal call to repentance and faith in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ.  I truly hope that out of all this, God would draw Mr. Sterling to Himself.  That Mr. Sterling would hear the sin-erasing, barrier-breaking, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ and embrace it and treasure Him as Savior and Lord.   I hope that he would come to know that though his sin is great, God’s grace is greater.  Selah

Back to Glass Houses

I believe that there is also an appropriate response for African-Americans and everyone else in general who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.  I honestly believe that the response should be one of anger and grace.  Anger, because of the ugliness and reality of the sin (notice I didn’t say racism) and grace because apart from Jesus Christ, we are no different than Donald Sterling.  We are racists, we are adulterers, we are idolaters, we are prideful; we are sinners. All of us.

I love the fact at our AWANA program, one the first Bible verses the kids learn is:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Paul (Romans 3:23)

This inescapable truth should lead us to repentance and cause us to show mercy for people like Donald Sterling.

If he loses his team, he might take a hit financially (very unlikely), his pride will be hurt and the NBA would be less one “racist” owner.  Maybe then, sponsors will return and the Clippers will wear their warm-ups correctly.  Maybe then, work conditions will improve and morale across the NBA will improve.  Maybe fans will hop back on the Clipper bandwagon.  Maybe ESPN will have other stories to report.  Maybe others will “get the message” that racism will not be tolerated in the NBA or America.  Just maybe, we will feel good about ourselves because of all things to be, at least we’re not racists. Just maybe.

I sincerely hope that as Christians, when confronted with the sin of others, we would be confronted with our own sin.  I sincerely hope that when confronted with our sin, we would drop the rocks of judgment and bitterness and malice.

Like the woman caught in the act of adultery recorded in John 8, Donald Sterling has been brought to the public square and we are all a part of the crowd.  Some of us with rocks ready to unleash and some of us just watching to see how it will all unfold.  Jesus is here too, writing in the sand and offering the same response as in days of old:

The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” – Jesus (John 8:7)

Notice that Jesus affirms that sin was committed and that it deserves justice, but He qualifies their right to execute said justice.

So the question is, will you be the hands of the Pharisees that bitterly drop their rocks and walk away? Or will you be the compassionate, loving, merciful hands of Jesus that graciously restore broken, sinful people.

Will you be the Pharisee or the Tax Collector?

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Whatever consequences Donald Sterling has to deal with in the next coming days will not ultimately cure his heart nor answer the problem of racism in America let alone the NBA.  The ultimate cure for racism and all sin is the cross of Jesus Christ.  Will you lead him there?

In Christ,

Terry

P.S. For another post (extremely well-written) about this subject go to http://www.raanetwork.org/3-quick-exhortations-christians-dealing-men-like-donald-sterling/

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The Gospel and Fitness

"Do you even lift?"

“Do you even lift?”

I’ve been in an Adult Basketball League the last few months and more than ever before I have been confronted with the reality that…wait for it…

I.AM.OUT.OF.SHAPE.

I’ve known it for a while and have thought about doing something about it; seriously.  Well, semi-seriously.  It’s been tough because I know the journey ahead will be long and hard and I’m not looking forward to it; hence my hesitation.  This is my story and my confession.

During the season, I found myself frustrated with myself (that sounds weird) and my level of play more often than not and I definitely attribute it to my poor conditioning.  Something has to give; now.  I need to either retire from the game of basketball or get my act together and get in shape.  I choose the latter; seriously.

So starting some day, I will start using my gym membership instead of donating money every month to the 24 Hour Fitness.  I will put on my big boy shorts, lace up my kicks and get back in shape.  BUT…I won’t let it consume me; at least I pray I don’t…

I’ve noticed over the past few years that there has been a dangerous trend going on with people I know and don’t know and that is the preoccupation and dare I say idolization of FITNESS.  Of course, with the ever-increasing changes and expansion of social media, the problem has been magnified, but it’s still a problem.  I don’t think I can go a day without seeing post after post, picture after picture or advertisement after advertisement about people working out, talking about working out, posting pictures from previous workouts or videos of actual real-time workouts.  Let’s not forget about the plethora of Facebook ads, Groupons, infomercials, DVDs and the like about the subject.  Everywhere I turn I am being flooded with people consumed with working out, consumed with trying to get me to buy a product to go with working out, so much so that it scares me a little to jump back in the game.

Most people might think that I am being dramatic and that I am not serious about my health and/or dedicated to it.  Now don’t get me wrong, as a person who has had high cholesterol the majority of his life, I know the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle.  I get it.  What I don’t get is the preoccupation with it where it begins to consume the lives of people so much, that it becomes the goal of life:

  • To be healthy and in shape,
  • To feel good and look good,
  • To just lose “a few” more pounds and then satisfaction will kick in,
  • To fit some model or mold that society has crafted as the ideal body type and/or ideal lifestyle.

For a lot of people I know and don’t know, this is their reality.  They are consumed with fitness.  Fitness has become an idol.  Relationships are becoming and/or have become strained because all they want to do is run or hit the weights or talk about running and hitting the weights.   Precious moments with family, friends or co-workers are being squandered because people are choosing to forgo meals and isolate themselves for the sake of “being healthy”.  For many, they have bought into the lie that if you get in shape, you will be satisfied because of the benefits.  For many, they have bought into the lie that being preoccupied with fitness and hanging around others who are like-minded fosters authentic community.  However, the whole idea of fitness is for the most part a self-centered conquest.   For many, this worldly preoccupation with the self and self-preservation has put them in a dangerous position where they have become their own idols consumed with glory for themselves.  Consumed with the idea of being adored by others for their pulchritudinous splendor.  They have become and/or are lovers of self.

What’s crazy is that many people don’t even realize it.  That’s because it happens so subtly.  What starts out as a healthy venture to perhaps enhance one’s quality of life, quickly (if not tempered) becomes the reason for life and the goal of life.  I have seen this happen especially in the Christian community, but this isn’t anything new.   From the beginning of time, humans have taken good things and have made them “god things”.  From the beginning of time, humans have believed the lie that there are things in this world (physical and metaphysical) that can bring ultimate satisfaction.

Friends, let’s not fool ourselves. NOTHING in this world can provide ultimate satisfaction save Jesus Christ! He alone can bring satisfaction to our longing hearts.  He alone can provide a love for us and affection towards us that would make us choose His love over life itself (see Psalm 63:3).  Why?  Because His love for us, God’s love for us, is not based on anything that we do or become.  The love the Father has for us which He demonstrated through the Son is not based on any merit of our own; but on His sovereign choice.  Hallelujah!

Yes, getting in shape and leading a healthy lifestyle can enhance our quality of life, but it can never replace or even measure up to the life that  Jesus came to give us (John 10:10) or the life we have to look forward to (John 17:2).   The world may promise happiness through fitness, but it won’t last.  The world may offer you it’s caricature of what is “sexy” and/or “desirable”, but it will change.

IT.ALWAYS.DOES.

The world may have it’s perks, pleasures and promises, but guaranteed, they will at some point fail.  What will not fail is God’s love for us (Jeremiah 31:3).  What will not fail is God’s Word to us (1 Peter 1:24,25).  What will not fail is the Gospel received by us (1 John 2:24).  Who will not fail is God’s Son with us (Hebrews 13:8).

So let us take these words to heart lest we fall in love with the world and consequently, ourselves:

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

What is God’s will for us in this life? It’s simple; love God and love people.  May we never allow the pursuit of self-satisfaction and self-gratification hinder us from obeying His commands.  May we never feed into and buy into promises that cannot be kept.  May we look to and rely on the promises of the One in whose mouth was found no deceit; Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:9).

25 And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

Next time you hit the gym or the trail, take the Gospel with you and remember:

“Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.” – Jennie Wilson

Getting back in the game,

Terry