Skin or Sin?

June 9, 2020

The chaos that has erupted around the death of George Floyd is understandable. It was a needless death, and he was deprived of life in a violent, callous manner. Killed by someone whose job is to uphold the law. To make matters worse, this is not a stand-alone incident. There are long lists of black Americans being killed in situations that should never have indicated death. Only the most resistant to admitting wrong cannot see that we have a national problem.

Rage has erupted. There is looting and violence everywhere. Peaceful protests turned quickly to screaming, vandalizing mobs. I heard Mike Huckabee say, “This is not at heart a skin problem; this is a sin problem.”

I have no intention of trying to define a problem that runs so deep in our national history and life. I am learning more every day that I and most white people need to assume a learning posture and be willing to hear what reality for my black and brown brothers and sisters has been. But I do know that people on both sides of this great divide have hearts that need God. Matthew 7:18 records Jesus saying, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” The fruit of our lives on ordinary days and when we are under stress is a clear indication of what our character truly is.

Paul writes to the Galatians about the love of Jesus, what Jesus valued, and what was made available to us because of Him: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-15). This sounds like an accurate description of what we are experiencing today. Our lack of love for others is causing us to bite, destroy, and devour each other.

Again, Paul speaks to us and points to the path of reconciliation: “So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21).

Verses 19-20 sound like a front-page newspaper paragraph. Those behaviors are destroying our neighborhoods and life as we know it. We are seeing firsthand examples of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and more. 

Then Paul tells us that the way to defeat the things that destroy is to live by the Spirit of God and let the fruit of the Spirit define our lives.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:22-26).

We receive the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as our Savior, but then we must choose to surrender control of our spirits to Him. When we surrender, we allow the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, to control us and shape our actions, reactions, and even our conscience. We become humble and teachable. For instance, right now in this time in our country, a Spirit-filled person, whether white or black, will be nudged by the Spirit to be non-defensive. They will not insist, “I am not racist,” but will be willing to listen, learn, and live by the Spirit’s direction.

That is the only way we will quit reacting defensively and even aggressively when our thoughts or actions are challenged. We will quit acting in ways that come naturally—foolish ways—and begin to live by the Spirit.

Think of how our world could change the dynamic if we let the Spirit of God develop the fruit of the Sprit in us. Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at the fruit of the Spirit one at a time and consider. Remember, it’s not that we in our human effort gut it out and try. The Holy Spirit, through our surrender and willingness, makes us able and wanting to do so.

The first fruit of the Spirit is LOVE. It is the fuel that makes the other fruit possible. For instance, if you don’t have love first, you won’t be patient, have self-control, or experience joy. So, we start there.

Love by definition is to serve a person for their good and intrinsic value, not for what the person brings you. That is rarer than we think. When we say we love someone, is that what it means to us? Are we serving them, putting their best interests first? Even when we get married, it is a rare person who says their vows with the intention of serving this person and putting them first all the days to come. That’s why we quickly begin to struggle once the intoxication of early romance has dwindled. If you can’t serve your own family and unselfishly consider their best interests above your own, it’s very unlikely you will be able to do it for someone you don’t know; someone who is not like you.

The opposite of love is fear, with self-protection and abusing people. Abusing doesn’t just mean physical injury. We can abuse someone by the high-handed way we treat them, by categorizing or stereotyping them, by talking to or about them negatively. Sometimes we treat them in a way we claim is love, but it’s actually counterfeit.

Counterfeit love is selfish affection. We say we love; we do some of the actions of love. Perhaps we even rescue someone, but at heart we are rescuing ourselves. We are rescuing them because we need them, or we need the feeling we get because we rescued them. Many times, counterfeit love is “trendy.” Right now, because taking a stand against racism is a popular thing, many of us who have never thought much about it will post something that sounds good, perhaps join a peaceful protest, but where will we be when the volume dies down and we go back to “normal”? Doing something for someone because it makes you feel good about yourself is not true love. Would you do the exact same thing if no one saw or knew, or if the response you got for your love was negative and hurtful?

True love at all times in all situations is not a natural thing. It is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve attached a message from Andy Stanley that I want to encourage you to listen to and reflect on.