What would God say to Don Sterling about his racist rant?
He might tell Don the same thing he told Aaron and Miriam when they spewed hatred and insubordination toward Moses. Essentially God announced, "If you like lighter skin, try leprosy!"
In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, center, and V. Stiviano, right, watch the Clippers play the Sacramento Kings during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Los Angeles. The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to Stiviano. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday, April 26, 2014, that the league is in the process of authenticating the validity of the recording posted on TMZ's website. Bass called the comments "disturbing and offensive." (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
In the book of Numbers, chapter 12, Moses is seemingly contronted about his leadership decisions; however, the author shows us their real motivation:
12:1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?”
While Miriam and Aaron pretend that their real concern is whether Moses is sharing the leadership (see verse 2), Moses (who authored the book) reveals that their real problem was with his Ethiopian or "Cushite" wife (vs 1).
God immediately steps in to challenge the bigotry. The LORD tells them that Moses is the most humble man on earth and is able to hear from Him directly.
And the Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) He is faithful in all My house.8 I speak with him face to face.
Now, the clothes are off. God's anger comes against them for their arrogance, insubordination and bigotry.
9 So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.
God uses his stern sense of humor to make a point. If you think that the color of your skin makes you "better" than others, I have an experiment for you. If you think that lighter skin is better than darker skin, I have a little present for you to open. God gives Miriam leprosy.
In this Feb. 5, 2014 photo, leprosy patient Satnarayan Singh, 86, sits outside his shop at a leper colony in New Delhi, India. Although India has made great strides against leprosy over the years, the stigma of the disease is as intractable as ever, hindering efforts to eliminate the disease entirely. Worldwide the number of new leprosy patients has dropped from around 10 million in 1991 to around 230,000 last year. Of these, 58 percent were to be found in India, according to the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Several striking lessons can be found in this rather harsh rebuttal.
1. As a leper, Miriam would experience the sense of isolation and humiliation that she had been dishing out.
2. As a leper, Miriam would long for "darker" skin.
3. As a leper, Miram would know that God took the attitude of bigotry extremely seriously.
Now, the story takes an amazing turn. Moses, who had been on the receiving end of the bigotry reacts in the most powerful, but unusual way.
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!”
Moses forgives his accusers. He loves and prays for the racists. He intercedes for them to God. Powerful stuff. Because of Moses' prayer, she is healed, but God wants us to experience a taste of the consequences of her actions by being shut out for seven days.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.”
In my book "Godonomics," I tell about my time pastoring a multiracial congregation in Lagrange, Ga. My dentist, a young black woman, told stories of standing against the Klu Klux Klan when she was just a teenager. She spoke of her father's courageous stand in the city square while whispering to her, "Jesus died for them too."
Only the power of the Gospel allows us to condemn racism, while realizing we all are guilty of some abhorant behavior. Only the power of God's forgiveness, allows us to call Don Sterling's comments horrific while praying for his repentance. Only the example of Moses can open our eyes to how to respond lovingly to such hatred while allowing those who hate to suffer consequences. Only the grace and truth of Moses can point to the ultimate example in Jesus who condemned us all for our wrongdoing while offering life-changing forgiveness.
Sterling has been banned from the NBA for life. Those are his consequences. If he thinks lighter skin makes him better, he should try leprosy.
Sterling is deeply in need of a stern lesson from God about justice, hatred, and isolation; however, he is also in need of a real friend, like Moses, who will love him into God's kingdom.
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