The cure for racism? Love God, love people.

Back in the early 1980's a movie came out by the name of If You Could See What I Hear. I remember watching it as a teenager on cable (yes, we had cable in the 1980's) and, although it wasn't all that great of a movie (my apologies to Marc Singer, the lead actor, who went on to achieve cinema greatness in the movies Beastmaster and Beastmaster II), there was a certain scene from the movie that has stuck with me these many years later.

If You Could See What I Hear recounts the story of a blind musician by the name of Tom Sullivan who does everything in his power to live a normal life in spite of his handicap. Active in the dating scene, Sullivan meets and falls in love with a woman with whom he is obviously smitten. During one scene in the movie, while he is being playful with her, she blurts out a fairly blunt question for him: Tom, how did you know that I was black? Stunned by her question, Tom, who is white, delivers a perfect response to her: I guess I'm color blind too.

I don't remember much else about the movie (nor do I really want to) or if the two stayed together, but I will never forget that brief scene. Encapsulated in that moment was a powerful truth that I am sure has existed as long as differing skin colors have been around - racism is real and it affects all areas of our lives.

Wednesday June 17, 2015, will be a day that will remain etched in the minds of many of us for years to come. Dylann Roof, a 21 year old white man, stepped into the historical Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, apparently under the guise of being a worshiper, and shot and killed 9 African American men and women in cold blood. The reports (and rumors) of his motive are still not entirely clear, but what is known is that Dylann Roof had a hatred for people of color. His desire that day was to eliminate a segment of our culture from this earth whose skin color was the opposite of his. This, my friends, is what racism and hate look like.

Racism is hate, pure and simple. Most rational thinking people will not disagree with that assessment. Racism is also sin and it offends the heart of God. Those who fear God and love Jesus know this to be true. And I don't know anyone who condones what Dylann Roof did or who would even dream of replicating his evil acts. Most of the people that I know and have talked with despise racism and many are fervently praying for racial healing in our country.

Yet here is where the issue of racism gets dicey for you and for me, and this is where a lot of you might check out on me or even unfollow this blog because I have now offended you, but I am going to give it to you nonetheless. You are guilty of racism and so am I.

What do I mean by that? Am I saying that you are a closet white supremacist or Black Panther who secretly hates people whose ethnicity is different than yours? Not at all. You see, most racism is very subtle, often avoiding self-detection. Your world view is shaped by the culture in which you live and were raised and when different cultures collide our perceptions get altered.

This is how it usually plays out. When it came time in school to pick a partner for your science project, you might have thought that the Asian guy who sat across the room with you would be a good choice because Asians are smart, right? Or how about when it comes to pick up basketball games? You want that black guy on your team because he's probably pretty good at basketball, right? Or when you see a landscaping crew working on a yard you nonchalantly count the number of Hispanics on the crew because most landscaping companies are composed of hardworking Hispanics, right? And when you hear of a CEO of a large company who either led his employees to greatness or jilted them out of their retirement savings, you imagine a white man in an Armani suit, don't you?

Do you see how easy it is to keyhole people into a certain category based purely on the color of their skin? And even when you and I believe that our motives are pure and even complimentary, the fact that I can believe that someone's skin color makes him or her better suited for a certain sport or job, I have revealed the roots of racism inherent within me.

I hate racism and I despise the fact that I don't hate it enough to completely avoid it in my own life.

Some of you may be reading this and think that I am subjecting you and everyone else to unnecessary scrutiny. After all, whether you are white or black or any other color, there will always be cultural dynamics in play that will determine perceptions and social mores. Hispanics have a unique heritage that people of another ethnicity cannot understand as do those of Asian, Arab, and Jewish descent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being culturally unique within the framework of your heritage and expressing that uniqueness. I truly appreciate the diversity that I see around me and I long to learn more about the differing traditions and histories of people who don't look like I do.

Yet in spite of the fact that we can celebrate diversity and even share our experiences with one another, there still remains below the surface a labeling mechanism that assigns value based upon race. And let me go ahead and say that I don't believe that the majority of you reading this blog are closet skinheads or race baiters who want to see "your people" win the day. When we see raw and unbridled racism is makes us wince and want to vomit, as it should. But most of us are either unaware or unfamiliar with the subtle ways that racism creeps into our way of thinking, and this is where we all need to be proactive.

Simply put, sin lies at the heart of racism. If you have a race problem, then you have a sin problem. And the first thing we must do when confronted with our sin is to confess it to God and then repent of it - this means turning our back on it and walking in the opposite direction. Jesus shed His blood on the cross for the sin of racism. He died to set us free from it. I believe we must also ask God to allow us to see others as He does. God could care less about skin color and that makes me want to be more like Him. Jesus packaged it pretty neatly for us in Matthew 22:37-39 when He told us to love God and love people. That, my friends, is the cure for racism.

Culture has neatly stereotyped people for us based upon the color of their skin. While you probably never sat in a Racial Stereotyping 101 class while in school, our world has been busy teaching you these lessons since you were born. And most of us have accepted them as the norm, just the way life is. We need to work to reprogram our minds and hearts to see the worth in our fellow man that lies well beyond the color of his skin. This isn't an easy task since time has allowed us to take on views as if they are innocent and harmless perceptions.

I am praying for my brothers and sisters who have been affected by this great tragedy in Charleston. Evil seems to have seized the day, but God is never thwarted by the sinful acts of man and He certainly won't be defeated this time either. I will be praying for Dylann Roof, that he would confess his sin and repent, surrendering his life to Jesus. And I am also praying for my neighbors in my community who don't share the same skin pigment or cultural heritage with me. When I see them in the community or drive by their homes with my windows down, I want to do more than just wave at them and share small talk. I want to love them well regardless of any ethnic differences that there are between us. Oh that God would teach us all to be colorblind.

Hi, my name is Sterling, and I have control issues...

"I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it / I'm about to lose control and I think I like it."

That song by The Pointer Sisters was popular back in my day. Maybe you heard Jessie Spano desperately singing it on Saved by the Bell, or you heard it played ad infinitum on the radio station in your car. Truthfully, I can't stand that song, but it's one of those that gets stuck in your heard and won't seem to leave. Now you're gonna be singing it to yourself the rest of the day. Sorry about that.

Even though that song was not my favorite, it resonates somewhat with my soul (I know, the song is about losing control in a relationship which is whole other ball of wax, but bear with me). Think back to your last day of school or what it felt like to finish that final exam before summer break. I used to literally scream with joy at the top of my lungs when I was done. School had a controlling issue on my life - it owned me for the better part of the year - and when I was out from under its yoke I got so excited that I just couldn't hide it...

I share all of that because I have a confession to make: I have control issues. There, I said it. It can drive me crazy when things are out of order or there is too much chaos. Having four kids has not helped me in this area; rather, it has highlighted just how jacked up I can be when it comes to my need to be in control.

Then there are those times when life and circumstances and culture seek to gain control over me and I realize that I am not the one steering the ship in the direction it should go. No matter how young or old you are, there will be people and events that will make every effort to dictate the direction your life should take. Some of these influences are subtle - the TV shows you watch and the music you listen to. Others are downright blatant - withering peer pressure and fear of rejection.

We either desperately want to be in control or we under the control of someone or something else. Not surprisingly, this tug of war is not good for your body, spirit, or mind. Something has got to give and when it does the pendulum usually swings in the opposite direction.

You see, whether it's you grasping desperately for control of your life or yielding that control to someone else who probably doesn't have your best interests in mind, being manipulated by control issues never satisfies. There simply isn't any joy in it. And without joy it's impossible to be happy and without happiness people will not want to be around you because you will be negative all the time and nobody wants to be around "that" guy or girl who is about as fun as having a wet blanket thrown over your head. Your presence should be more endearing that waterboarding.

This is where the 20th Century philosophers known as The Pointer Sisters come back into play. It's time to lose control and believe me, you're gonna like it. If you struggle with control issues then I'm about to drop a bomb on you: There is freedom in letting go. When you yield control of life's circumstances that you can never possibly hope to fix, you are free from those things defining who you are. And once you are able to break free from the grip of those who want to dictate your every move or thought, you are really on the road to freedom in your life.

You determine what controls you and makes you happy, not someone or something else. When you give up your rights to determine these things, then you are being controlled by those who more often than not don't have your best interests in mind. Just in case you are thinking that all of this sounds like the power of positive thinking and that I'm going to suggest getting rainbow and butterfly tattoos, think again. While the control that you seek to have over situations or the control that you yield to others is rarely ever healthy, there is another way that giving up control can truly set you free.

When you fully let go of control issues and allow God to be the giver and author of the joy in your life, then not only do you no longer have to worry about being in control but you also can rest well knowing that the One who is now in control is infinitely good and has your best interests in mind. Jesus came to earth to die for the sins of the world and to offer salvation to all who would believe. He didn't do this because He was just some nice guy or to give you a healthy option for life. No, God gave us Jesus because it is in Him that we find true joy and happiness.

Even on those days when it rains on your parade and it seems like work or school or home life has got you in a vice grip and happiness seems like a ridiculous suggestion, the joy of the Lord never runs out. That's because when you know Jesus, then your joy is based on what He has done for you, not what you can manufacture for yourself. And when that's the case, you don't have to try and wrestle control from other circumstances or people in hopes of finding your happiness. In Jesus, you already have all that you need.
This means that you can really start enjoying life. Is the house a mess or a deadline looming on the horizon? Take a break - go for a walk, throw the ball with your kids, sit on the porch, or watch a movie. What you can or can't control doesn't define you - Jesus does. Believe me, the mess and deadline will be waiting when you get back but you will also be better prepared to deal with them.

Are you in a relationship that is unhealthy or have you found yourself being pulled in a negative direction by cultural influences that are about as happy as a second degree diaper rash? Again, take a break - unplug from electronics and read a good book, spend time with family and friends who love you for who you are, or put your energy into a hobby that you've been neglecting.

You're about to lose control right now and chances are, you're really going to like it.

Who's got your back?

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