Donald Sterling’s Problem

The remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling were…actually, I’m not even sure what word (or words) to use. “Sickening” according to Michael Jordan. “Incredibly offensive” said President Barack Obama. Basketball heavyweights have said there’s no place for Sterling in their sport. And the NBA responded by banning Sterling for life, and fining him $2.5 million.

This matter forced the National Basketball Association to confront serious issues, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver decided the offensive remarks were indeed made by Sterling. Silver acted swiftly and firmly, sending a strong message to Sterling, the NBA and those associated with it, and the world.

I found the recording extremely difficult to listen to. I would not have chosen to listen to it, but happened to be in a place where it was sort of “sprung” on me and I had little choice but to hear the revolting rant. I listened with my forehead in my hand wishing it would end—quickly—only to discover that there was much more to be heard in addition to the initial release.

The sad fact is that as long as there is sin in the world, there will always be racism, but this was…this was different somehow. These weren’t remarks made in anger, or spewed in the heat of the moment, or fueled by drugs or alcohol. Even if they were, the remarks wouldn’t have been any more acceptable, but there would have been a context that enabled people to at least say, “Here we go again,” or “Well, what can you expect?” This was well thought out, calculated and carefully elucidated. This couldn’t be explained away somehow, using inflamed human emotion as some kind of excuse. This was…hideous.

Yet as grotesque as Sterling’s comments were, there’s an additional twist in this affair that isn’t generating a lot of discussion. And that is, the remarks attributed to Donald Sterling were made to his girlfriend—not his wife of nearly 60 years, but his mistress. While it seems certain that Sterling is racist—based on the ruling by the National Basketball Association—he is also certainly immoral. And nobody seems to mind.

Sterling’s paramour is more than 55 years his junior. There’s controversy surrounding this relationship: lawsuits and accusations and money—and plenty of it. Evidently, in this age where racism is appropriately not tolerated, immorality is accepted as a part of everyday life.

In certain circles, immorality is celebrated. It’s a conquest—an achievement—and whereas tawdry behavior was once the domain of men, our equal-opportunity world has seen to it that women are welcome to be every bit as morally bankrupt as men.

One 27-year-old actress recently acknowledged that she has had 36 “partners” over the years. While she admits to being embarrassed that the list of her conquests has been made public, there’s nothing attached to the story of her immorality that suggests she actually did anything wrong.

The point of this post isn’t to criticize the immoral, but instead, the fascinating relativism that exists with sin. I noticed (unfortunately) that one It Is Written Twitter follower professes faith in Jesus while adorning her Twitter page with soft-core pornography. Certain sins fade in and out of style, while many can become somewhat fashionable.

Oddly, 150 years ago, Sterling would have likely been criticized for his immorality, while racism would have been given a free pass. Times change, as does the human proclivity for defending the indefensible.

When God heard the phone conversation between Donald Sterling and his mistress, He was appalled by more than racism. But thankfully, racists, the immoral—in fact sinners of all shapes and persuasions—can find forgiveness and renewal in Jesus.

See, there’s one more thing nobody is talking about with Donald Sterling, and that’s redemption. Yet, isn’t that the ultimate hope in the case of any sinner? Condemning a man for his misdeeds is the easy, almost satisfying part. Praying him on to a change of heart is another.

Jesus could easily say, “The man’s guilty. Throw your rocks!” But He is far more interested in saying, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Were Sterling to be the biggest bigot on the fruited plain, he would still be a bigot for whom Christ died. And while one hopes earnestly that a racist would see the error of his or her ways and repent, one also hopes that a racist would find Jesus, and redemption from all sin.

As ghastly as the recorded racism was, the Bible reminds us that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20) There’s plenty of sin in this world to go around, and there’s a little of Donald Sterling in all of us. None of us is blameless; all of us are flawed and fault-ridden. God sees it all, and wants to save us just the same.

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