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James Merritt - How to Win Every Race

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    James Merritt - How to Win Every Race

Prejudice is when we make a distinction between people that God doesn't make. That's prejudice. So, whenever you make a distinction between people that God doesn't make, that is prejudice. Racism is a level up, because racism is when we discriminate or we differentiate between people on one single basis, and that is pigmentation, the color of a person's skin. Now again, to be clear, we all discriminate for different reasons, and I'll show you why I know that. Rick Warren, this is not original with me. Rick Warren says there are at least five areas where we're all tempted to discriminate, and let me just go ahead and I'll be totally honest. I've done it in every single area. Okay?

So, I'm guilty as charged. For example, we discriminate on the basis of appearance. So, you know, we tend to kind of favor people who are good looking, or have straight teeth, right? I mean, you know, so we kind of discriminate on that basis. By the way, studies now show if two people are interviewing for a job, this is true. If one person has crooked teeth and one person has straight teeth, who do you think gets the job most of the time? Yeah, the person with the straight. Now, if you have no teeth, you don't get any job, okay? Then, we discriminate on the basis of age. Right? We all do that. So, us older people, we kind of look down our nose at you inexperienced, younger people, and you younger people, you kind of look down your nose at old-fashioned, older people.

So, we discriminate like that, right? Then, we discriminate on the basis of achievement. We just tend to hold the CEO, or we tend to give wide berth to people who are rich and famous, or the CEO of a company. We tend to hold the CEO in higher regard than we do the stock person, right? So, the person that owns the grocery store has one level of respect, the person that bags the groceries has a lower level of respect. And then, we tend to discriminate on the basis of affluence. So, you know, if you're the CEO, we put you up here. If you kind of sweep the floors, we put you down here. The one I want to deal with, which to me is the most insidious of all of them, is we discriminate on the basis of ancestry. So, we look at people of one color one way, or one heritage of one way, or one lineage of one way, and we look at people of another color another way.

Now, the question is, why do we do that? What is it within us that makes us want to just, for some reason say, you can't be as good as I am, because your color is darker than mine. You can't be as smart as I am because your color is darker than mine. Why do we do that? Well, I think the second President of the United States, John Adams, who by the way was the first president who didn't own slaves and was against slavery, he put it best when he said this. He said, "I believe there is no one principle which predominates in human nature so much in every stage of life, from the cradle to the grave, in males and females, old and young, black and white, rich and poor, high and low, as the passion for superiority".

I think he hit it on the head. We just have this, you know, that's why pastors are jealous of other pastors. You know, this pastor pastors a church of this size, and this pastor pastors a church of this size. There's jealousy. Why? Because we feel like maybe they are superior to us just because of the size of the church they pastor, or whatever. You know, we're jealous of someone because they live in a bigger house than we do, and we think somehow, well, why are they superior to us as if, you know, the size of the house you live in makes you the quality of the person that you are. Well, the good news for us is, Jesus had a brother, his name was James, and James actually wrote a letter to a church dealing with the very problem of prejudice that we're talking about. Yes, they had the same kind of problem, a different little flavor to it, you'll see, but they had the same kind of problem. Their's was not a prejudice of ancestry. They were dealing with the prejudice of affluence and achievement in the early church, and James kind of had to set the record straight. But, what James said to them really applies to the issue we're dealing with today.

So, if you have a copy of God's Word and would like to look along, we're in the Book of James. If you don't know where that is, one of the easiest books of the Bible to find. If you've got a Bible, go all the way to the very back, all the way to the back. Turn about three books to the left. You'll be in the Book of James. We're in James 2. Now, what James is going to say is this. He's talking very specifically to church people, and I mean by that people who really believe in Jesus Christ, not people who claim to believe in Jesus, or say they believe in Jesus. They really are followers of Jesus, and here's what he says. He says, "Real faith evaluates all people by what is on the inside, not by what is on the outside".

So, he said if your faith in Jesus is real, if you don't just say you're a believer, you really are a believer, then racism will not have any part in your heart. Prejudice will be something that you will recognize and you will fight with everything in your being, because James says real faith never judges a book by its cover. It always judges a book by its contents. So, in this passage, and this is what I love about James, and what I love about the Bible. I've told you this many times. The reason why I love the Bible so much, and Jesus in particular is, and you've heard me say this a thousand times. We complicate the simple, the Bible simplifies the complicated. Because let me tell you, we're being told today, oh, this racism issue, it's so complex. There's a Greek word for that, baloney. It is not complex. It is not hard. It is not really something that we can't get a handle on. We absolutely can, and to show you this, James tells us two simple things to do, just two. And he says if you do those two things, he said, absolute money back guarantee, racism and prejudice will be gone. Ready?

Number one, we should look at people the way God looks at people. We should look at people the way God looks at people. Now, we're in James 2:1. He says this. He says, "My brothers and sisters", why does he do that? He says, I'm being specific now. I'm talking to those of you who don't just claim to be Christians, you are Christians. You really are part of the family of God. You really are my brother and sister in Jesus. He says, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord, Jesus Christ, must not show favoritism".

Now, whether you're a believer in Jesus or not, whether you go to church or not, whether you believe in God or you're an atheist, it doesn't matter. We would all agree, if we're honest, yeah, racism is wrong and prejudice is wrong, and we should not practice them. We should not play favorites with anybody. But, what James says is, it's really wrong if you're a believer. It's really wrong if you're a true Christian. It is really wrong if you really have faith in Jesus Christ, because there are two things that cannot coexist together, redemption and racism. If you've been redeemed, you can't be a racist. If you're a racist, you cannot be redeemed. And so, by the way, that word for favoritism is a really interesting word. In the Greek language, it comes from two words. One word means face, and the other word means to grab hold of.

So, the word favoritism literally means to grab hold of someone's face. And so, the idea is never judge anyone by what you see on the outside. Never judge anyone just by the color of their skin or what is on the outside, because here's the promise I'll make to you. Every time you judge somebody by what's on the outside, you're going to make a mistake every single time. I'll give you an illustration. How many of you have ever met someone, and the first time you met them, you said, I won't like that person? This guy, I just don't like that guy. And, they'll wind up becoming your best friend. Or, you'll meet someone and maybe they're having a bad day, and you mistake the moment for the man. You think, oh, this person's got that issue and that issue. It's not them, they just ate too much Mexican. I mean, it's just, you know, something like that, Mexican food, and you know, they just feel like, you know, it's really not, they really are wonderful, wonderful people. You cannot judge on the outside. You'll make a mistake every time.

In fact, I was reading about a judge the other day, and he was trying to select this jury for this case, and he was really getting frustrated because everybody kept giving excuses why they couldn't serve on this particular jury. And so, he's really getting to kind of at the end of his rope, and he comes to this one man, and he looks at him and he says, "Okay, just go ahead and tell me, why can't you serve on this jury"? And the man said, "Well, your honor, I'll tell you why". He said, "I'm prejudiced and I'm biased, and I can't serve on this jury". And the judge said to the man, he said, "Well, why are you prejudiced and biased"? And he pointed to a man in a suit, and he said, "Well, I'll just be honest with you. I took one look at that man and I was convinced he's guilty. He looks guilty, and I don't care what you say, I'm going to vote the man guilty". And the judge looked at the man and he said, "You idiot, that man's not the defendant, that's his attorney"!

Now, you can't always go by appearances, right? You can't always judge by what's on the outside. But then, James describes this situation that was going on in the early church, a little bit different, but kind of the same principle. There was a problem of prejudice and discrimination, even back in the early church. Here's what was happening. He said, "Now suppose a man comes into your meeting. He's wearing some gold rings and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy, old clothes also comes in". He said, "If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes, and you say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but you say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil faults"?

Now, here's the situation. Go back 2,000 years. So, they're having church on Sunday and this guy drives up in a Mercedes chariot, and he gets out in his Gucci sandals. He's got this Rolex sundial around his neck and he's dressed in this tailor made tunic, and he comes walking into the church, and he's glittering with gold, and they escort him right down. They give him a front row bleacher seat, right? Then another man walks up, and he's dirty, and ragged, and tattered, and he smells bad. He hasn't had a bath in a week, and his beard is scraggly, and his hair is filthy, and they tell him to stand in the back.

James says, now, you're practicing what I would call economic racism or social racism, but it's the same thing. It's favoritism. You're grabbing that person by the face. You're judging that person by what it is on the outside, and it's wrong to judge people based on any external factor. It's wrong to judge people on the way they dress, or whether or not they wear tattoos, or earrings, or braided hair, or especially the color of their skin, because by the way, you know something we all wear every day of our life? Our skin! Well, if you may remember, but Paul was in Athens, and he was preaching on Mars Hill. It's really cool to preach there, by the way. He was talking to a bunch of Pagans who didn't even believe in God, and he says something to them about the origin of every human being, and I promise you, when he said it, he didn't even really know what he was saying, but he was making a tremendous, scientific truth.

Listen to what he said. This is 2,000 years ago! He said, "From one man, he made all the nations". So, in other words, he said, from one man, it doesn't matter what color your skin is, it doesn't matter where you were born, it doesn't matter what continent you came from. We all came from one man, that they should inhabit the whole earth. Now, I guarantee you, Paul did not even know what he was saying when he said that, but what he was talking about was the common ancestry that we all have, regardless of the color of our skin. Peter said this on one occasion. "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation, red, yellow, black, white, from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right". Paul said to the church in Rome, "For God does not show favoritism".

Now, let me just kind of cut to the chase here. If we had looked at everyone 250 years ago the way God looks at everyone, our Constitution would have been different. We would not have written some things that we wrote, and we wouldn't have passed some things that we passed. And by the way, James goes on to tell us why discrimination in any form is wrong. Listen to what he says in Verse 4. He says, "Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts"?

Now, what was he saying there? He said when you judge people on the basis of their skin color, or you see other people through the eyes of prejudice, you're focusing on what is on the outside, and that's something that even God does not do. Even God doesn't do that. It never occurs to God to ever look on the outside. I mean, it's kind of an amazing thing! God says in effect, the Bible says when you become a believer, you get x-ray vision, and from now on, you don't look at people on the outside. You go deeper than that. You don't look on the cover of the book, you look at the content of the heart. You know, there was a great story in the Bible about how God said to Samuel, Samuel was a priest. And God said to Samuel, he said, you know Saul, who is presently the king? He said, you know Saul has rebelled against me. Saul has rejected me. I am kicking him off the throne. I'm taking him off the throne. I'm going to give Israel the kind of man that they ought to have as king, a man after my own heart. And he said, Samuel, I want you to go find him.

Now, he said, now Samuel, before you do, let me just go ahead and kind of tell you how it's not going to be done. Don't look for the best looking guy. Don't look for the tallest guy. Don't look for the most muscular guy. Don't look for the guy with straight teeth. Don't look for the guy with straight hair. That's not how you're going to find this guy. And listen to what He says to Samuel. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him'". The Lord does not look at the things that people look at. Got it? Look at people the way God looks at people. The Lord does not look at things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. That is the only way to look at people, through their heart.

Now, I want to give you an illustration of just how foolish this whole racism thing really is. Anybody have any idea what this is? Anybody know? That's the Hope Diamond. That is the most valuable jewel in the world. It's in the Smithsonian Institute. I've seen it. It weighs about 45-1/2 carats. Its value is estimated at about $350 million, the most valuable jewel in the world. Now, I want to ask you a question. If I took the Hope Diamond, and I put that Hope Diamond in a black box, would it be any less valuable? Could you buy it for a cheaper price? Well, you say, of course not. How ludicrous is that? I agree! Because what makes the Hope Diamond valuable is not the box that it's in, it's the diamond in the box, right? There is a Hope Diamond within every human being, and it's called the soul, and that soul is far more valuable than every diamond in the world, because that soul is going to live somewhere forever.

So, here is my question. Is the soul less valuable because it comes in a black box? Is the soul less valuable because it comes in a yellowish tinted box? Is the soul less valuable because maybe the facial appearance shows you they're from one part of the country rather than another part of the country? Absolutely not. Every single person ever conceived is of equal value in the eyes of God, and that's why we ought to look at people the way God looks at people. It is the most foolish thing in the world to judge the diamond by the box. So, we look at people the way God looks at people. And then James says, and just one other thing. We should love people the way God loves people. If you're going to look at people the way God looks at people, you'll love people the way God loves people.

Now, I want to say something here and I hope that you hear what I'm saying, and don't hear something I'm not saying. There really is only one remedy for racism, and it's a four letter word called love. 'Cause I want you to listen now to what James says in Verse 8. He says, "If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right".

Now, here's what I want to tell you. Now, don't hear me say something I'm not saying. I am grateful for every law we have passed to try to address this issue of racial discrimination. I'm grateful for the 13th Amendment. I'm grateful for the 14th Amendment. I'm grateful for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I'm grateful for all of that. But, let me tell you something we've also learned in all of that, because I've done my research. Legislation alone will never solve our problem, because it's not a head problem, it's a heart problem. Now, it's real simple. If you look at every person as your neighbor, and they are, and if you love your neighbor as yourself, and if you love your neighbor as God loves your neighbor, prejudice will disappear. You won't have to work to make it disappear, it will just disappear. It will be gone. It cannot stay in your heart.

See, James calls this the royal law. Why does he call it the royal law? Because love is the king over every law. When you love others as you love yourself, you're going to look at others as equal to yourself. And oh, by the way, if we just loved everyone as our self and loved them as our neighbor, you wouldn't need any laws! You wouldn't need any legislation! So then, James reiterates by saying this in Verse 9. He says, "But if you show favoritism, you sin, and you're convicted by the law as lawbreakers". In other words, James says, let me tell you something. Don't think, well, racism is a weakness. It's not a weakness, it's a wickedness. Don't sit there and think, "well, you know, racism, it's just a skin problem".

Racism is not a skin problem, it's a sin problem. Racism has nothing to do with skin, nothing. It has everything to do with sin. It's not caused by skin, it's caused by sin. As a matter of fact, do you know why we look at skin? Because of sin. We look at skin because of sin, and to show you just how terrible it is, James goes on to say something that you normally would not appreciate, because you didn't live 2,000 years ago, but I want to make you appreciate it. Listen to what he goes on to say. He said, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it, for he who said, 'You shall not commit adultery,' also said, 'You shall not murder,' and if you do not commit adultery but you do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker".

Now, what was James saying? Remember, the context of this whole passage was prejudice and discrimination. What James was saying was if you're guilty of prejudice of any kind, if you're guilty of racism of any kind, to any degree, for any reason, your sin is just as bad as adultery. Your sin is just as bad as murder. And oh, by the way, those were the two top sins according to the legalistic Pharisees of that day. So, now that's kind of one part of my message. This part's real short, so just relax. That's one part of my message. I'm almost at the end, I can tell you right now.

So, I thought to myself, okay, how am I going to relate it to people who are believers, and people who maybe are not? What can I say to them to prove to them that both the God of the Word and the Word of God totally is against any type of racism and any type of prejudice whatsoever? How can I do that? So, what I want to do is this. I'm going to give you two theological principles in two easy words to remember, and if you will just remember these two words for the rest of your life, racism will never be a part of your heart ever again. So, for those of you who are listening, and you'd be honest just to say, you know, I've struggled with this. I've had a problem with this. I do battle racism in my heart. I do battle racial feelings. I do battle prejudice. Two words I want you to write down, okay? Just real simple. Number one is the word creation.

Now, let me tell you what I mean by that. Our founding fathers got it right in word, they just didn't get it right in deed. They were right. All men are created equal. And by the way, all men and women are created equal, because you go back to the first chapter of Genesis. We're told that both male and female were created in the image of God, so what does that mean? That means from the first man and the first woman to the last man and the last woman who will ever be born, every human being comes into this world bearing the image of God, every person. So, that means we all have equal worth, and the reason why we all have equal worth, nobody's inferior to anybody or superior to anybody. The reason why we all have equal worth is because we've been created in the image of God.

Someone put it this way. They said prejudice is when a first class citizen is thrown on the junk heap of second class citizenship, because that's what racial prejudice does. It downgrades people from the way that God sees them, and it degrades them from what they really are, creations in God's image. So, one word to remember, one theological principle, creation. The very fact that God created all of us and put all of us here tells us we're all created equal. Now, if that's still, I'm just not quite there with you, let me give you one other principle. Crucifixion. You say, okay, how does that relate to creation? Just as God created all of us, Jesus Christ died for all of us. Pride and prejudice are simply two sides to the same coin.

And let me tell you what hit me. Here's what prejudice is. You know what prejudice is? Prejudice is thinking less highly of others than we should, and pride is thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. We need to get rid of our pride because our skin may be lighter than somebody else's, and we need to get rid of our prejudice because their skin may be darker than somebody else's. We need to understand that God created all of us equally in His image, and when we understand that Jesus was crucified for all of us equally as sinners in need of a Savior, you know what'll happen? We'll start looking at people the way God looks at people, and we'll start loving people the way God loves people. And when we do that, we can win every race.
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