About ten years ago I served my church by setting up a nearby school’s gym for one of our worship services. (“Served” is the wrong word. They paid me to do it.) The church paid a few college folks who wanted to get up at 6am and be the heavy labor, and I worked closely with one of them. He didn’t attend our services; he just wanted the check (and who can blame him?).
He came from another country, and I’d usually pick him up and drop him off. And, being from another country, his English wasn’t as strong as my own, and he carried a thick accent to boot. One morning I was taking him back to his apartment and remember–almost to the part of the road I was on–what I thought when he was talking to me.
“This guy must be an idiot.”
Donald Sterling is all the news right now. The owner of the LA Clippers (an NBA franchise, for you non-sports types) made some terrible, reprehensible comments about black people; things that you would not think people would say today. And he did something else stupid simultaneously, which was somehow let someone record him saying them. He must be an idiot.
“Let him burn!” we scream. “Let him burn!” “Nobody makes those kinds of comments today. We are past that.”
That conversation in my car ten years ago and one other one I’ve had recently repeat in my mind right now. . .
A few weeks ago I said this to a dear friend and member of my church family: “I will always try to find a reason not to like people.” What scared me when I made that comment was this: I meant it.
- You cook your food like that? At least it explains the smell.
- Rich? No, you’re greedy. And a jerk.
- Did something embarrassing? I just tweeted a picture of you that you didn’t know I tweeted so that I could make fun of you to my friends behind your back and in front of everyone else’s.
- Get your cigarettes away from me.
- And you MARRIED that person? Now I don’t like you or your kids.
- How many diets have you started? I’ll pray for you to have more self-control.
- Thinking about divorce? Sorry you don’t love Jesus as much as I do. That must be hard.
- Abortion? Murder is a more appropriate word. (Because there isn’t enough shame in the first word, right?)
- You think horrible thoughts about people? That’s disgusting.
- Rich, overweight, racist, and a poor choice of wristwatch? That’s the perfect storm of a terrible person.
Those thoughts, and many more, reside in me daily. Everyone’s opinion of me is too high, including my own; and I’ll gladly jump on the bandwagon of hating someone else if that means you don’t have to know how much you should hate me and if it could insulate me from the evil that often shows up in the quietest of times.
Courtney and I spent an evening out together recently, and I made this comment: “Do you want to start working out with me?” (What she knew I was saying was, “You should go to the gym like I do if you really want to lose that last bit of baby weight.”) I was disgusted with myself and apologized immediately, but part of my apology was because I was dumb enough to say what was already in my heart. I mean, who does that?
Oh. Sorry. This post was about Donald Sterling. Racism is terrible, and it is reprehensible, and I probably wouldn’t like Donald Sterling if I met him; but I’d hope that he’d put me in his will (I don’t like you, but I’ll take your money, Donald). And for those in the faith family, there is absolutely no room for any of it (he says as he prepares to preach to his 98% white, upper-middle class church tomorrow morning–where I’ve thought about going up to congregants who aren’t white and asking them why they’re so faithful). Let him burn. He can get in line right behind me.
But what I hope never stops amazing me is this: someone already burned for me.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)