August 19, 2018
Pastor Alan Smith
Last week we started a sermon series called One Race. It is a series where we’re looking at race, racism, and racial division and what the Gospel has to say about these subjects. I live in Harris County, and in Harris County the rule of thumb is not if you hit a deer, but when you hit a deer. About four months ago I was driving home from work up I-185, and out of the corner of my eye I saw this blur. I hit the brakes and turned my car. I missed one deer, but I didn’t miss the second one. It messed the front of my truck all up. The doe rolled, jumped up, and took off into the woods. There I am on the side of the road. My truck’s kind beat up. It happens, you know. I did what you’re supposed to do. I called Jay, my insurance guy, and said, “Jay, what do I do?” He told me what to do. I took the truck and got it worked on. When I went to pick it up about a week later, I was like, “Man, they really did a good job!” When I first got the truck, the bumper was messed up because it had hit a deer already, so it hadn’t looked this good in years. It was fantastic! What I noticed after I was driving it for a few days was, every now and then it would make a weird noise. What I found out was that on the passenger side fender, a little piece was still broken. I still haven’t taken it back up to be fixed. I mean, I paid the money; I did what I supposed to do. They handed me back the keys and said, “Sir, it is fixed.” But it’s not fixed. While it looks like it’s fixed, there’s still something not quite right.
I think in our country today we have a similar problem when it comes to race and racism. We have problems from our past that have been ingrained in our culture. We’ve made some decisions, passed some laws, and made some changes and adjustments. Then we say, “We fixed it!” Then we’re like, “Well, kind of. I mean it’s sort of fixed.” I’ll give you an example. In the 1920s-1930s there was a big housing bubble taking place. The stock market was about a crash in 1929. Roosevelt was coming into office, and he had this New Deal in place. So what was happening in the 1920s-1930s was that they were trying to make some economic decisions about the housing market to keep it from completely collapsing. So they sent different government agencies that went into the neighborhoods across the country. They began to divide the neighborhoods up between properties and neighborhoods that were going to be good financial investments versus property and neighborhoods that would be really bad financial investments. That information was then used to help the housing market. Columbus was one of those cities that got these markings done. The housing market in Columbus was divided based upon high risk and low risk. Then that played out into mortgages and the housing market. One of the key factors (but not the only factor) on whether the market in a particular neighborhood was considered favorable or not favorable was race and ethnicity. This was part of what went into making these decisions.
In 1968, we as Americans say, “Hey, that’s a bad thing. We shouldn’t be doing that.” So, we passed the Fair Housing Act, which said you cannot discriminate when it comes to housing based on race at all. We said, “Okay, great! We fixed it. Yeah, we fixed it!” However, if you look at the map of Columbus today, what I would suggest to you is that there is still some work to be done. We haven’t quite got this thing figured out. Something still needs to get fixed. There’s segregation and division. There are things that help keep us separated. Today, what I want to point us to can be summed up in one sentence.
We need to have empathy for people who are different from you.
We must be willing to confront racism as a church so that we can challenge it in our community. In order to do that, we need to engage people and call racism and racial discrimination what it is – sin. It’s a sin problem. We must be compelled by the Gospel to look at people who are different from us and look past what we see and listen to what they say. We need to see people through the lens of Scripture. We need to understand each other. We need to listen to each other. We need to understand the feelings that someone else brings into the conversation. Just because someone’s different doesn’t mean they should be excluded. If we’re going to understand the scope of the Gospel, it is imperative that we develop empathy for people
I. Collective Consequence of Sin
Last week when Jeff introduced the sermon series to us, he challenged us to think about the reality that man was created in the image of God. Male and female, he created them. In diversity, he created unity. Jeff challenged us to think about what we can do to make life better for our children. And so, as we think about the Garden of Eden and what God created, it is important for us to remember that Adam and Eve have had a close relationship with one another. They also had a close relationship with God. They literally would walk in the garden with God. They had a close relationship and engaged with each other intimately in the garden. Then, in one day, things changed. Not following God’s ways has consequences for you as an individual, and they have consequences for the collective.
1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Guys, why verse 6 is important for us to understand is that Adam was with her while she was being tempted and he did nothing. A failure of manhood is passivity. He was with her. That’s a sin.
Look at the lie! The serpent says, “That’s not really going to happen.” The woman looked at the fruit and began to think that it really was kind of nice. Then she began to say, “I want it!” She saw it with her eyes. She found the light in it. Then she began to covet it. It was selfishness. It was coveting. There was pride. There was this individual-focused outlook on her life that said, “I want that.”
The consequence of their failure to obey God was immediate. When she took the fruit and they ate this fruit immediately, the Bible says their eyes were open and immediately the consequence came into play. Immediately they were ashamed. They were not shamed of each other before, but as soon as they sinned they were ashamed of one another to the point they went to hide themselves. They sewed fig leaves together. If you continue reading, in chapter three God comes walking into the garden calling, “Adam? Eve? Where are you?” They’re hidden. The sin brought about an immediate consequence as we talked about last week.
The reality is that in our marriage and our relationship, God created man and woman, and there is unity in our diversity. In the garden, Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with one another. Sin immediately, even in that relationship, separated them. They felt shame towards one another. They hid from one another. They hid from God. Sin had an immediate consequence and immediately changed the world in which they lived. It had an immediate kind of consequence for them individually and an immediate consequence for them and their family as a culture in which they lived and their relationship with God. It is important to understand that sin has corporate consequences. It’s not simply an individual issue. It’s corporate. It’s systematic. It is ingrained into the very system in which we function.
I’m going to give you two Bible examples to illustrate what I’m talking about. I’m not going to go through them deeply, but I want you to go back and read them later. In Joshua chapter seven there’s an interesting story because as the children of Israel are going into the Promised Land, God has given them some very explicit instructions. One of those instructions was to not plunder the city. They were not there to gain wealth. So, Joshua told the men, “When we go in, you don’t leave with stuff. Leave it!” Achan, one of the soldiers, went in and noticed all this stuff lying around. He thought, “That’s nice! I could use that! It would be nice to have at home. I know my wife would love to have that! The kids would enjoy that.” So, he just began to collect some stuff up, took it home with him, and put it in the tent burying it to hide it. God says, “Joshua, this is not right. Somebody has done something wrong. You need to call Achan and deal with this.” In our minds, we would go, “Achan has sinned. Achan should be punished for his sin.” That’s not what happened. God says, “Achan, come here and bring your family.” What we find in Joshua chapter seven is that the consequences of Achan’s sins were carried out not just on Achan, but also Achan’s family. Our sins don’t just affect us; they affect our family. There are consequences. Sin doesn’t just stay isolated. It likes to ooze out. It infects all of us.
Another example is in Daniel chapter nine. Daniel’s been in captivity in Babylon for close to seventy years. He went there as a young man, and he’s now an old man. He’s reading Jeremiah. As he’s reading the Scriptures, he realizes that the sins of their fathers have caused them to be in captivity. He’s thinking, 150 years ago, my great, great, great grandfathers and great, great grand families forsook the commands of God. They stopped worshipping God and started worshipping idols. They stopped listening to the commands of God and started listening to themselves. They began to abandon the commands and decrees of God. So, God in his justice brought judgment and sent the people into exile. As Daniel is reading and thinking about this, he begins to pray. Daniel says some interesting things. He says, “I know that they did that, but I’m sorry for the sins that I’ve done to make this happen.” In Daniel chapter nine we see a man who recognizes that the sins of our fathers have long-reaching implications to us today.
Things don’t happen in a vacuum. The sins of the past are not simply forgotten. We don’t sweep them under the rug. We don’t ignore them. We don’t think that they don’t matter or they don’t exist. They can carry through generations. Deuteronomy says the sins of our fathers are passed on to the third or fourth generation of those who hate him. But the righteousness has passed on to the thousandth generation to those who love him. Sin is not something that happens in an isolated event. It’s not just you. It’s not just me. Sin is a collective problem, and we all suffer because of it. There’s a collective consequence for sin, but the good news is there’s a collective blessing through a promise.
II. Collective Blessing through Promise
If you study Genesis one through Genesis eleven, the story’s kind of bleak. Sin enters into the world. Everybody is sinful. You see somebody get murdered and then you see people killing each other. It gets to the point that God says, “Fine! I’m done with it. We’re going to start all over.” Genesis one to Genesis eleven is pretty bleak. Then chapter twelve comes along, and it’s the turn of the story. The plot thickens, and things change. In chapter twelve we get a new direction in the story. We get a realization that the story is not just about the consequence of sin, but there’s a hope that’s coming.
The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Did you notice the redundant statement? -God will do. It is a wonderful thing because it’s a promise about who God is and the character of God. He’s making a promise based upon himself and not based on “if, then”. It’s not like, “Abram, if you will do this, then I will do that.” That is sort of this contingent on Abraham being able to do something. This is a promise dependent completely upon God. I am going to do this, and I promise you on myself that I am going to do this. If you want to get the total picture of this promise or covenant, read Genesis chapters twelve, fifteen, seventeen, and twenty-two. You’ll get the full picture of what this promise is that God is making.
Here’s the deal. God says that he (God) is going to do something, and he chose Abram. An interesting side note on Abram is that he is a pagan at this time. It’s not like he’s a Jehovah follower. It’s not like at this moment in time Abram and his family are followers of the Jewish God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He’s pagan at this time and worshipping other idols or gods. God says, “You know what? I have a plan, and I’m going to use you, Abram, to do it. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to promise that not only are you going to be a great nation and your family going to be big, but because of you I’m going to do something for the world.” At the end of the verse, notice he says, “All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.” All the peoples on earth – does that exclude anyone? Regardless of your ethnicity or your culture, you are included in this ‘all of’. All of the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.
Now, what’s interesting is that in Galatians, Paul uses this to build an argument that the promise that Abraham is receiving (that ‘all the earth will be blessed through you’) is the person of Jesus. Paul makes the argument in Galatians chapter three that says, “Hey, you know back there when God made this promise to Abram and God said ‘I’m going to make you a great nation and all the world will be blessed’? Jesus is the reason the world is blessed.” There’s a new promise. The beauty of this promise is that it doesn’t matter what what culture you’re from or what ethnicity you are. We have access to the promise. The promise is for all people. And if we want to reach deeper, which is what we spent the last several weeks preaching and learning about, and if we want to make disciples, which is our goal and objective, then we must understand one another. We have to share in their feelings. We have to understand where they’re coming from. If I want to be able to share the Gospel and have conversations with someone, I need to know them, have a conversation with them, and I need to have empathy for them. You know the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”? It’s true.
III. Collective Response to the Gospel
So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. 19 For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Adam’s sin condemns us all. It is not that we are sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners. We do not say, “Well, you know, I’m a sinner because I lied this week.” No, you’re a sinner who happened to have lied this week. We are sinners. It is ingrained in who we are. Paul talks about this war that’s in my body, “I don’t want to do this, and then I find myself doing this thing I don’t want to do. Then I’m back and forth. Why? Because there’s a struggle inside my soul, inside my heart, and inside my flesh, that wants me to do those things that are counter to who God is. But then at the same time, the spirit that dwells within me is compelling me to be righteous and live according to the life that God has called me for.”
We are sinners because of Adam’s sin. We are all sinners. We’re all under the curse. That is our nature. Jesus is righteous and Jesus came to earth, died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day so that he could bring good news, life-changing news. The flesh can die and the spirit can live, but if we reduce sin to my simple individual life, that is not the Gospel. -if we don’t understand and recognize that sin is a collective issue. We are sinners because of what Adam and Eve did thousands of years ago. You are a sinner today because we bear the weight of that responsibility and the consequence of that action. Yet at the same time we rejoice at the deliverance of that sin nature through the work of Jesus Christ. We can rejoice because of it.
The one thing that racism and racial prejudices and all these things do, the Gospel explains why that happens. Why does it happen? -because the Gospel says we are sinners. I’m prideful I want what is mine to the point that I will exclude you. As a matter of fact, I will push you down because of sin. I’m prideful. I want what’s mine. I’m an individual. Keep your hands out of it. That is sin that dwells in my body, but the righteousness of Christ that dwells within me says, “I can deliver you from that.” Where sin abounds, grace did much more abound. Because of the consequence of sin, we all share in it, but because of the work of Christ, we can all share in it as well. Racism is ingrained into the very fabric of sinful man. It’s not surprising that it exists. We’re sinful. We look for ways to be sinful sometimes. Even when we try to do something good, it’s oftentimes motivated by sinful actions.
Empathy is a driving mechanism that will help us bring two groups together. We have a tendency to put ourselves into groups. We group ourselves together. We tend to group ourselves together by a variety of things. Football season is about to approach. If you’re a Bulldog fan you’re in my group. We group together with people that are similar to us whether that be on religion, color, culture, ethnicity, or football. We group ourselves together. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, when we group ourselves together at the exclusion of others, we begin to live out sin. When we group ourselves together, what we find is that we have a greater empathy for people in our group than we have for people outside of our group. As a matter of fact, we have very little care for people outside of our group.
In 2014, a group of social scientists from Stanford University conducted a series of experiments to measure this “empathy gap”. Does it really exist, and if so, how could we measure it? They conducted a series of experiments. The experiment showed that people who are in a similar group have more of an affinity and an empathy for each other than for people who are not in their group. In this experiment, the participants are told to listen to a story of girl by name of Natasha. Natasha is a woman whose grandmother died of cancer. So she’s telling her story and expressing her emotions. They’re told to listen to the story as fast as they can without losing the essence of the emotion of the story. The participants are shown a photo that represents Natasha. Half of the group has a photo of a white lady and half of the group has a photo of an African American lady. This video was intended to highlight and emphasize the reality that there’s a gap that exists between us when we are in different groups.
As long as we maintain different groups, there will always be disparity. It is imperative that we as believers operate under a paradigm that says all people are under Christ. The next time you’re not seeing eye-to-eye with someone you’re disagreeing with, just stop for a moment and try to see it from their point of view. If you do, it will increase the chances and the likelihood that you will then be able to have a Gospel conversation about what Jesus has done for them, as opposed to being separated and divided. So, develop empathy so that we can have conversations with one another and that we as believers can stand up to racism, racial division, and disharmony between ethnic and cultural groups.
• Today, I realized that I need to surrender to Jesus for the first time.
– I have active or passively dismissed racism in our city and I will not be dismissive of sin.
+ I will confront the sin of racism in my life, my family, my community with the Gospel.
- Read Genesis 3 (The Fall) and Romans 5:12 – 21. What is the effect of Adam’s sin on human beings?
- Compare and contrast the idea of Adam’s sin on mankind with past racial sins on people today.
- Do the sins of slavery, Jim Crow, and racism of the past really matter in today’s world? Explain.
- What is the role of the Gospel in fighting racism and prejudices in our church, community, and country?
- What are ways you can begin challenging racism and prejudices today? Share your ideas with others.