During the Sterling episode, one verse kept coming to my mind. It was written by the prophet Jeremiah who had a profound understanding of the human heart and its condition. In Jeremiah 17:9-10, he pens these words, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (King James 2000 Revised Version)
The more one finds about Mr. Sterling, the more the wickedness of his heart is revealed. The wickedness of the heart was not something he was zapped with this year. This wickedness of the heart resided in him for many years – in fact, one can say for the duration of his life. His dealing with people –be it real estate business partnerships, political connections, or sports revealed this wickedness. People avoided his wickedness, accepted his wickedness, and bypassed his wickedness because he was a very powerful and rich man and could greatly harm people that were in his way.
However, one can pen a similar wickedness to the door step of the NAACP LA leadership. It is impossible that no one in the NAACP LA leadership knew about his blatant racism. Yet, the leadership awarded him in the past and they were ready to award him again this year with their prestigious award. Were they willing to accept his money in spite of his racism? Did the money he gave to the organization make them look the other way? Does money neutralize evil behavior?
In all of this, some people are proclaiming that the journalistic organization that scouted this behavior is the hero. For a moment, that makes sense until we start looking at some of the ways that they did their research. Does the end justify the means?
The NBA is still trying to finalize what penalties they should give to Mr. Sterling and how to avoid similar situations in the future. The problem is that all the people involved carry their own wickedness in their hearts. While Mr. Sterling’s behavior should not be excused in the least, this situation can be used to check the racism of our own hearts. How many of us can say we have never had a racist thought, spoken a racist word, or behaved in such a way that was viewed by someone as racist and hurt someone in the process?
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When push comes to shove, most of the people behaved in a certain way because they think they can. They think of themselves as above proper etiquette, above the laws of the land; that their power and prestige gives them certain liberties that other mortals do not have. That is the case with racism and with any other sin. We do it because we can. Yet behind this type of thinking is the wickedness of the heart. Similarly to Mr. Sterling was King David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba because he could. After all, he was the king of Israel. When confronted by the prophet, he prays these words, “Create in me pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
I pray that all the people involved, Mr. Sterling, the NBA and the NAACP leaderships, you, and I will allow God to create in us pure hearts – free from racism and any type of wickedness that so easily clings to us and causes us do awful and hurtful acts.