Bill Clinton’s image as America’s first black president was bleached when he reminded voters in South Carolina that Barack Obama’s victory in the Democratic primary wasn’t that significant, since Jesse Jackson had done just as well in his earlier campaigns for the Oval Office. No, it didn’t take long for the race card to be pulled from the bottom of the political deck. Now, video snippets of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years, show him ranting against white people and America from his pulpit in Chicago. America was called on its hand of racial bigotry back in the sixties, but neither civil war, nor civil protest or disobedience, nor state or federal legislation has quenched the burning embers of racism that simmer in the fiery caldrons of every human heart – presidents, pastors, and peons alike.
That defect comes at birth as part of our standard operating equipment – our sinful nature. Every human being inherits that ignitable imperfection from Adam, the first man – the first president, or federal head, of mankind. Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, all have been infected. That evil nature may seem worse in some than others, but we all have it, and since then, man has hated just about anyone who didn’t look or think the same. From the onset of man’s rebellion against God, Scripture shows us the wickedness of individual human hearts. From Genesis, we learn the truth about Cain, who murdered Abel. We learn why God destroyed all but eight human souls in the Flood. We are taught why God confused the languages at the tower of Babel. From there, people spread out and ultimately congregated with others they could understand. Nationality was born and skin color changed with latitude. As civilization progressed, the attitude of national pride and prejudice was cultivated in young hearts and passed down from fathers, mothers, friends and enemies. When God provided Isaac as the child of blessing over Ishmael, man’s heart could not handle the sovereign fiat, and hatred bloomed again in the deserts of the Middle East. It carries on today in Jerusalem, down on 7th Street in your hometown, and in our own homes. Jeremiah wrote about our desperately wicked hearts long ago, noting that only God knew what was really in them. As we look around the planet, we can see the consequence of sin.
To combat unacceptable behavior, the world uses morality to try and keep sin in check, but morality doesn’t change hearts, and that is where the problem lies. Look at it from this perspective: every human being is reigning as president in the nation he rules in his own mind. Some actually live out their dreams, like Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-il, while the rest just strive for dominance over family and friends. Leaving trails of broken relationships because of selfishness, very few realize that the only place to have it our own way is at Burger King. And though tolerance for race and religion has ridden the airwaves for years, 9•11 happened, and suicide bombers still ride buses in Israel. While many talk of what man can do to bridge the racial divide, the tracks in most towns still divide us. From Rwanda to the Sudan, from the Balkans to Tibet, and from Tucson to Tijuana, there is much friction and little love between people of different races. Ethnic cleansing, or national racism, is the result of agitation that spins from unclean human hearts.
People may portray an outward, civil side at the factory or office, but inwardly, there is a simmering hatred for other races. People may deny it and live in half-hearted harmony, but once unkind words erupt over some issue, those evil thoughts of racial hatred spring into action. To quench the firestorm set off by Reverend Wright, Senator Obama gave a speech on racism. He was eloquent and made several good points. He reminded us of our past history, our fears, and the tradition of free speech that takes place honestly around kitchen tables and in barbershops and beauty parlors all around this nation. However, because it was a political speech, he could not expound upon the real problem of racism in America – the problem of sin that dwells in evil human hearts. Because it was a political speech and had to be politically correct, he could not offer the only solution to the problem, which is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the King of the universe.
It is only Jesus who can cleanse the human heart and make it right. He came to restore the relationship that man once had with God. He came to give us a new heart, a new nature that He imparts to us when we are born again. Then, and only then, can we love God and people. Until that happens, we remain, as Paul wrote in Romans, bound as slaves to sin. Christians, however, can overcome this sin because they have the Holy Spirit who lives inside them. They can truly love other people, no matter what color their skin may be, for they have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light. They, due to the power of God, have become slaves of righteousness, redeemed by the blood of Christ from the marketplace of sin, and they understand that we are all born as brothers in Adam – sinful people – one human race. In Christ, however, we have been given a new nature, called the new man. We are to put off the old man, realizing all that Christ has done, and put on the new man, or live with a new attitude of our minds based on all that Christ has done for us.
In Galatians, however, Paul wrote that even after someone becomes a Christian, there is a conflict going on inside between the evil nature we are born with and the new, divine nature God imparts to us. That’s why Paul said we must put on the new man daily, although it was something given to us once by God. Only as we act as agents of God in this world will the people God puts in our path see the light of truth.
Unfortunately, the Bible tells us that this problem of sin will remain with us until the return of Jesus Christ, who will destroy all evil. At the present time, however, God is working through Christians to bring the offer of peace with God, who people hate, whether they acknowledge the fact or not, to those who are outside the faith. The Bible teaches us that until we are made alive in Christ by grace and acknowledge Christ by faith, we cannot please God – the God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
Scripture declares that the love of Christ was based on an act of true sacrifice, rendered to God and mankind in a ministry that spanned just three short years. During that time, He broke down the complexity of race and religion into a simple basic fact. There are really only two kinds of people in the world: (1) Those who know God and are part of His family, and (2), those who don’t know God and are outside of His family.
Yet, while mankind was still His enemy, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. He died on a cross and spilled His own blood to pay for our sins. That blood, by the way, is the same color in all human beings. His act of atonement is the only payment God will accept. Faith in Christ and what He has done (His death, burial and resurrection to pay for sins and provide eternal life) is what we all need, but many still reject Christ and follow what they believe to be right in their own minds.
Today, if He has allowed you to see the sin in your own heart, He wants you to repent, or change your attitude towards Him and others. If you agree with Him that you are a sinner who has sinned against God and people, He has opened your eyes, for most people never admit honestly that they are sinners. If you agree with his evaluation of your heart, taught throughout the Scriptures – His inerrant Word – then you may be thinking, what do I do?
That same question was posed thousands of years ago when the Psalmist asked, “What shall I render to God for all His benefits toward me?” His answer was simple yet profound. He said, “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”
In the New Testament, the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. Their answer: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. The Scripture says there is salvation in no other name but the name of Jesus.
Until one takes the step of placing faith in Christ, whereby one becomes a friend of God and part of His family, the church, one cannot truly love God or his enemies. And it is only because He first loved us that we can love Him. Little children of the planet have it right when they proclaim His love by singing, “Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Sin abounds in evil human hearts, but where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more, for God’s love abounds to us in Christ. Choose to accept His offer of reconciliation. Don’t remain an enemy of God and loser in the biggest race of all – the race for eternal life.
Mountain Time Moment
I press on to reach the end of the race
and receive the heavenly prize for which God,
through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:14 NLT
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
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