By Fred Luter
It’s hard to believe that this is the twelfth week since we have been able to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to worship the Lord, and it’s all because of the COVID-19 virus affecting our nation. It is contagious, lethal and deadly.
But as contagious, as lethal, and as deadly as COVID-19 has been, last week another virus was exposed in our nation, just as contagious and lethal. The virus of racism is alive and well in black communities all across America, leading to the senseless, sad, and shocking deaths of African-Americans all across our nation.
We saw it in Minneapolis last week when a white police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd in front of three other police officers as he suffered, facedown in the street in full view of a gathering crowd, shouting, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”
Will Smith said it best when he said this week, “Racism isn’t getting worse in America. It has always been bad; however, the only thing different now is that it’s being filmed.” Jim Lewis, one of our members and a prolific author, said it this way when I talked to him: “Being a black man in America is dangerous and deadly.”
He’s right. Because of racism, black lives are being taken needlessly all over America. Racism is alive and well in America. I know we’re trying our best to get through Coronavirus, but the truth is, we have another deadly virus we’re dealing with at the same time, so much so that we have protests erupting all over our nation with people from every religion and background, every age and walk of life. People are uniting in the streets with a unified voice, saying “enough is enough.” How long until we realize that we’re all in this together, that there is only one race: the human race? When will we understand we are all human beings created in the image and likeness of God?
That’s why Genesis 1 says, “God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female, he created them.” That’s why John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, the whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” God so loved the world, and the world includes all ethnic groups; therefore we must together stand against racism, prejudice, bigotry hatred, violence, abuse of power, and discrimination—because we were all created in the image and likeness of God, we are all precious in his sight.
So how can we deal with this other deadly virus called racism? We’ve been instructed by the CDC how to handle the Coronavirus—wear masks, social distance, wash your hands—but what about this other virus called racism? Just as the CDC tells us how to deal with Coronavirus, so the b-i-b-l-e tells us how to deal with the virus called racism.
There are four facts we must all understand in order to deal with this virus called racism. Number one, life is short. “Just as through one man, sin entered the world…” Sin has entered into the world, and because of that, life is short. It was never God’s intention that Adam and Eve should die, but as soon as they disobeyed God, the process of death began; our days began to be numbered. Our lives are filled with reminders that life is short—when your nightstand starts to look like a pharmacy, it’s a reminder that life is short. When your eyes start to go, and your teeth, and your hair—when your abs become flabs—it’s a reminder that life is short.
“What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” And whenever someone dies, no matter how old they were, to their family members, life is too short.
Second, to deal with this virus called racism, we have to understand that death is sure. “Just as through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin…” Death is sure. That’s why Hebrews says, “It is appointed to man once to die.” And you can cancel your appointment with your doctor, your dentist, your hair-stylist, your mechanic if something comes up, but death is an appointment you and I cannot reschedule. You can do all that you can to take care of your body, but all of us have an appointed time of death. We don’t know when, where, or how, but death is sure. Nobody escapes. Nobody gets around it. All of us one day will die.
Which leads to the third fact all of us must understand to deal with this virus called racism: sin is the cause. “Just as through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Sin is the cause. Brothers and sisters, it’s because of sin that robbers rob; it’s because of sin that thieves steal; it’s because of sin that children are molested; it’s because of sin that bullies bully. It’s all because of sin.
It’s because of sin that good police become bad police; it’s because of sin that good lawyers become bad lawyers, it’s because of sin that good judges become bad judges, it’s because of sin that good preachers become bad preachers; it’s because of sin that good people become bad people. It’s all because of sin.
It’s because of sin that we have racism; it’s because of sin that we have prejudice; it’s because of sin that we have bigotry; it’s because of sin that we have hatred; it’s because of sin that we have violence; it’s because of sin that we have discrimination; it’s because of sin that we have abuse of power. And it’s because of sin that a handcuffed man by the name of George Floyd had his life taken away from him by a racist cop while he cried out, “I can’t breathe.” He was never taught that in the academy, or by his boss, or as a part of his training. He did that, and stood on that man’s neck, because of sin.
Life is short, death is sure, sin is the cause. And because sin is the cause, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s why we have discrimination, racism, bigotry, hatred, and violence—because of sin, and because we have an enemy called Satan, who is the enemy of everything God ordained.
But there’s one more: Christ is the cure. Christ is the cure. “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For as many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for many.” I am convinced that the word of God is true, “and if anybody is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things now become new.” No matter the ailment, no matter your past, no matter your addiction, Christ is the cure. Christ is the cure for the alcoholic, for the adulterer, for the gambler, for the robber, and yes, Christ is the cure for the racist. How do we deal with this other virus, called racism? People need to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. If Derek Chauvin had known Christ, George Floyd would be with us today. And if you ask, how can you be so sure? It’s because I’m a living witness, that “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things now become new.”
I know you’re hurt. I’m hurt. I know you’re angry. I’m angry. I know you’re upset. I’m upset. I know you’re in mourning. I’m in mourning about the racism in our nation. But just as you understand the facts about the coronavirus, you must understand the facts about the virus called racism. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation,” and George Floyd would be alive today except for the sin of racism. Life is short, death is sure, and sin is the cause, but Christ is the cure. Jesus is the answer for the world today.
Fred Luter is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The article was adapted from his sermon to Franklin Avenue Baptist on May 31 and appeared on the New Orleans Baptist Association website. The full service can be viewed here.