The death of Trayvon Martin has stirred up a lot of discussion and controversy. It has been interesting to watch the media firestorm surrounding this story and very sad to watch hate breed more hate.
If Trayvon had been unjustly killed by a gang member, or during a robbery, or even by his mother while he was in the womb, his death would have been just as tragic, just as much a loss, but would not have drawn so much attention. Gang violence, robbery, or abortion is not how Trayvon Martin was killed, though. He was shot by a man who appears to be racist.
I’m not going to speculate on what part racism played in George Zimmerman’s actions. I wasn’t there and cannot see into his heart. But, since racism is in the headlines again, I do want to discuss it.
Racism is a form of hatred and it exists not just between blacks and whites, but between people of different ethnicities all over the world. There is no shortage of misunderstanding and prejudice. How society has responded to this tragic shooting is sobering, if not surprising, and points to the fact that racism is alive and well, and works both ways.
It is important in times like these to search our own hearts, to invite God to expose areas of blindness we may be harboring. "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23. You see, racism is just a surface issue. If all we do is deal with the racism, we are missing the bigger picture. You can't destroy weeds by picking off their leaves. You have to take them out by the roots. So, what is the root of the racism weed?
In the Garden of Eden the serpent invited Eve to eat the forbidden fruit “and you will be like God” (Genesis 3). Eve took the fruit and ate it. In that moment of disobedience to the God who created and loved her Eve attempted to put herself on God’s throne. She then shared the fruit, and the idolatry, with her husband, Adam, and from that point on, usurping the throne of God has been the desire of every human heart.
We all want to be our own god and live our lives worshiping ourselves, or the idols we create (Romans 1: 18-32). My right to pursuit happiness trumps your right to live because I am the god I worship. We see it everywhere in our culture: abortion, domestic and child abuse, slavery, persecution, and senseless murders. The heart of man is dark with sin. God tells us so in his Word and we can see it in the world around us (Jeremiah 17:9, James 4).
Behind the surface of racism there is a heart that views itself as god, a heart that denies the God who created both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin in His image. The idea that any of us are better than others because of the color of our skin, or that we are worthy of deference by a certain group because of the color of their skin, is sinful self-worship. God says we are all the same, humans created in His image with fallen hearts. The color of my skin has nothing to do with my value as a human or with the sinful nature of my heart. In these two areas all humanity exists before God equally. (Romans 3:23, Genesis 1:26)
There is one solution to sin, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24). The Cross is the only place we will find the defeat of sin and the death of death. He is the author of our hope, healing, forgiveness, and love (Luke 4:18). To come to Jesus, to allow Him to pay the penalty of our sin, is to humbly declare Him to be the one true God worthy of our worship (1 John 5). There is no room in the heart of man for two Gods (Matthew 6:24). Either Jesus is, or we are. This is where Jesus becomes a stumbling block for many. He separates us from the worship of ourselves.
The nature of all sin, be it racism, murder, abortion, lying, stealing, etc., is rebellion against God, against His Sovereignty, His power, His love...against His being God. This rebellion always leads to destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
What is ironic is that our attempts to be our own god actually make us slaves. In making ourselves the authors of life, we become slaves to death. In declaring ourselves the definition of truth, we become slaves to a lie (Hebrews 2:14, I John 1). In giving ourselves the power to judge, we become slaves to judgement(James 2:13).
The Word of God is clear the only way to overcome evil is with love (Luke 6:35). When we respond to hate with hate, hate wins the day. Hatred finds its defeat in love. The human rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. understood this when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Cases like the shooting of Trayvon serve to remind me that we are people in need of a savior. We do not make good gods. We are not all-knowing, all-loving, or all-powerful, but there is One who is. The death and resurrection of Jesus is an open and tireless invitation to come to Him, to lay down our efforts to be gods and the bondage those efforts bring, and experience the freedom found in submitting to the one true God (John 14:6, John 8:31). It is an invitation to exchange death for life, slavery for freedom, despair for hope, and hate for love, and it is an invitation made to you today. Who are you worshiping?
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