Donald Sterling Does Not Make You A Good Person

I listen to ESPN’s Mike & Mike sports radio show almost everyday (actually, I listen to an abridged version called “The Best of Mike & Mike” podcast) and I was struck by a comment Mike Greenberg said yesterday in relation to the recent events surrounding L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the strong response by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. In case you somehow missed it, Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA, fined 2.5 million dollars, and could potentially be forced to sell his team.

Providing commentary yesterday on his show, Greenberg gave a nod to the principle of causality commonly referred to as karma to explain the consequences of Sterling’s actions. Greenburg said:

“I believe strongly in karma…Donald Sterling is a bad guy and has been doing terrible things to people for a long time…payback is a ‘you know what’ and this person had it coming for a long time.”

That is a fascinating quote for many reasons. I want to make two observations from a Christian worldview.

1. God has created all people, men and women, equal because all people are created in the image of God. The words and actions connected with Donald Sterling not only have “no place in the NBA”, they have no place in all of life and are an attack on the very nature of humanity. Christians should appreciate the decisive response from commissioner Adam Silver for reasons far greater than the integrity of the NBA; nothing is more important than recognizing one another as the “masterpiece” of God’s creation whereby no one person, gender, or race enjoys a position of superiority over another. We are right to pronounce this kind of behavior as “terrible” and should applaud the NBA’s swift response.

And yet, we have to be careful. Listen to Mike’s words again:  “Donald Sterling is a bad guy and has been doing terrible things to people for a long time.” That statement, although absolutely true, has the potential to greatly diminish our transformation and discipleship into the image of Jesus Christ. Why would I say such a thing? Because…

Transformation requires dependence on Christ
Dependence on Christ requires need of Christ
Need of Christ requires awareness of sin
Awareness of sin demands we see it for what it is

It is my belief that a significant reason we do not see more transformative growth happening in the context of the local church is because we have churches who do not recognize the gravity of their own sin. We know we are “sinners” and we say we are “sinners” but we certainly don’t believe we are capable of the depravity of Donald Sterling. No, our sins are the “respectable sins” that Jerry Bridges so eloquently speaks of…but they are every bit as damning. I am not suggesting all sin is “equal” in its practical impact or degree of consequences. And yet, in light of a holy God who sits on the throne with glory and honor and power, our greatest deeds are nothing but a dirty rag. The depth of Donald Sterling’s trangressions does not make you a better person in light of God’s holiness. Only the power of Christ can do such a thing. So be careful, Christian, when recognizing the depth of depravity and sin in another person…let that bring us to our knees in repentance of our own “terrible things.”

2. Karma has nothing to do with Christianity. If you are a Christian, never use that word. Our future blessing is not based on the goodness we have managed to accomplish during the course of our life, but is dependent completely on the work of Christ on our behalf. All our blessings come through Christ. Every one. Likewise, Christ has suffered and died to take the punishment of sin for us. Thus, a Christian is not punished today for sins we have committed in the past. Karma is a false principle based on a false worldview.

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