I read an article a few nights ago about Donald Sterling and just had to share some thoughts from it. Donald Sterling, if you fell off the planet in the past two weeks, is the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball team. He made some shocking, deplorable remarks to his girlfriend that were recorded which included that she shouldn’t associate with black people and he wished that she wouldn’t “bring them to his games.” The remarks are appalling, indeed, and everyone, seemingly, has weighed in on this issue – from LeBron James and Michael Jordan to President Obama.

In his article, “Jesus Came for the embarrassments”, Nick Lannon writes:

“It seems to me, though, that there is at least one thing left to say, one thing that I’ve not heard amidst the talking heads, one thing that’s being drowned out by the outrage: I’m not all that different than Donald Sterling.

“To frame our discussion, let’s use a tweet from ESPN.com’s NBA analyst Kevin Pelton, who wrote this on Saturday:

“@kpelton: Important Sterling takeaway: If it’s so hard to get rid of an embarrassing owner, the vetting process better be airtight.

“What Pelton is referring to here is the vetting process done by the NBA and other owners before giving a prospective owner the opportunity to buy into their most exclusive of clubs. There have been many calls for the NBA to ‘force’ Sterling to sell the Clippers, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of precedent—or legal recourse—to make that happen. Pelton suggests that if kicking an embarrassment out is impossible, the league should make extra sure that they don’t let embarrassments in in the first place.

“Here’s the pertinent fact for our discussion: We are all embarrassments!

“Too often, we think of Christianity as an NBA-like exclusive club from which we’d like to keep potential embarrassments. When someone on the inside has a public ‘fall from grace,’ we wonder aloud to each other if they were ever truly members in the first place. We keep our vetting process airtight, praying that our club avoid embarrassment.

“What if Jesus had sentiments similar to those Pelton expressed? In Part 13 of his Romans sermon series, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian asked this question. ‘If he’s going to be such an embarrassment,’ Jesus might say, ‘I’ve got to make sure my vetting process is airtight.’

“Pastor Tullian continued: ‘Jesus doesn’t vet. He comes to the embarrassments. He comes to you and to me.’ ”

Lannon goes on to add that if Jesus had a “vetting” process to get into the Kingdom, we’d all be in trouble. He says, “We need a God who, in Christ, does not vet. We need a God who knows us to be the needy, prideful, prejudiced, self-glorifying Donald Sterling people that we are, and who comes to us in our need. We need a God who doesn’t wait for us to clean up our act. Donald Sterling has proven himself an enemy of the NBA, and the NBA is going to do all it can to punish him for it. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, was sent on a mission specifically to rescue his enemies (Romans 5:10).

“It might be fair for Donald Sterling to lose his NBA team. That’s for lawyers to decide. We need a God who is better than fair; in fact, a fair god leads inexorably to our destruction. We need a God of mercy. And in Christ, the rescuer of enemies, we have one.”

(Note: Two days ago, Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA, fined a hefty amount, and ordered to sell his team. Stay tuned.)

Worth It

I can still remember where I was on September 11th, 2001, as I’m sure you can. I remember a lot of things about that day: the stunningly beautiful, clear blue cloudless skies, how I discovered it happened, prayer at church at noon, being glued to the radio at work listening, and then, later, the TV watching in horror and disbelief. It was a day that changed the world, to be sure… and that’s an understatement.

I also can still remember my reaction. Folks were debating how the United States should respond. Strike back immediately, carpet-bombing, plan a war, institute sanctions, etc. There were voices coming from everywhere, and I’m sure the choices that then-President George W. Bush made were excruciatingly tough. We know the decisions that were made and events that ensued. But I wasn’t so sure that was right course.

Don’t get me wrong: I am so thankful for our military men and women who serve selflessly to protect our freedom and way of life around the world. Thousands have paid the ultimate price. Thousands more are still paying the price from the wounds they suffered. “Thank you” is not enough.

It is a hard thing to love. It is especially hard to love those who don’t love me back, or who, in fact, hate me back. It is hard to love those who don’t even say, “Thank you.” It is hard to love those who don’t even pay attention to me. I tend to love only those who love me in return, or at least pay attention to me. Maybe it all boils down to the fact that I tend to love only those who think I’m worth something.

That is how loving others begins: by assigning worth to them. The sobering thought is that they (whoever “they” are) are worth as much as I am. That includes the guy standing by the offramp, looking for a handout. That includes the homeless guy up in Washington D.C. asleep on a park bench with a newspaper over his face. That includes the pedophile I heard about on the 6 o’clock news. And that includes those that inflict damage and horror in my life and in others’ lives, either by the words they say, the things they do, or even the bombs they set off.

Jesus thinks they are worth dying for. Jesus thinks I am worth dying for. Jesus thinks you are worth dying for. They are, I am, and you are treasures to Jesus. That is how love and service begins for me: by trying to develop the eyesight of Jesus and seeing the beauty and worth of the lives around me, and then putting that love into action by serving them. Love isn’t love unless it is accompanied by service.

But I can’t do this. I simply can’t. Without God’s help, that is. And I fail at this. Every. Day. I fail. I need more of Jesus.

The world needs more of Jesus.

A Clever Deception

I don’t want to review movies, but Sharon and watched the movie “Noah” Friday night and it’s taken a couple of days to compose my thoughts on the movie. It bothered me.

My emotion leaving the movie was filled with dismay and anger. I’m not bothered by the movie not being biblically sound. That seemed to bother many, but it didn’t really bother me, in a way.

What bothered me most was a clever, subtle reversal. It’s a reversal the enemy, Satan, delights in. It’s one he is very good at. It is something similar to his original deception.

What became astoundingly clear by the end of the movie was the depiction of good as evil and evil as good. It seemed (to me) that the following was portrayed:

1) The fallen angels were depicted as once betrayed by humans (ha!) and in the end, helpers of Noah. They were the good guys, even shown as heroic.

[As opposed to Isaiah 14:12-15; Revelation 12:7-9; John 8:44]

2) Noah was depicted as evil, hell-bent on destroying – literally – his family in order to be obedient to God.

[As opposed to: “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” (Genesis 6:9 NIV)]

3) God was depicted as a vengeful, hateful Creator, bent on destroying the ENTIRE human race, including Noah and his family. He was depicted as a God who would kill babies, and only Noah’s supposed disobedience saved his family, and, of course, the human race.

[As opposed to Genesis 6:17-20; Romans 5:8; John 3:16; 1 John 4:8-10]

4) Humans were portrayed as solely to blame for the Fall, the original sin of Adam and Eve, and there was no blame cast on Satan, and later, his minions. Some watching the movie may have thought that even the Creator was to blame.

[As opposed to Genesis 3:14; James 1:13-15]

5) Humanity was only saved by the will and disobedience of a man.

[As opposed to the fact that humanity is saved only by God’s redeeming Son. See Romans 5:16-19; Hebrews 5:8-9; Romans 5:6-9]

Good was evil. Evil was good. The classic deception of the father of lies.

However, truth brings freedom, and the truth will always be that as Christ-followers, we are children of God, by the love the Father has lavished on us (1 John 3:1). We have the Spirit of Jesus living inside us (John 7:39-39), and we live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. (Hebrews 12:28; Matthew 16:18; Revelation 20:7-10)

Always victorious!