"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." ~ Jesus (Matthew 6:12 NKJV)
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." ~ Jesus (two verses later)
Are you aware of the forgiveness that God offers you through Jesus Christ? Are you also aware of Jesus' commands to forgive those who sin against us? Are you struggling with forgiving yourself or laying your burdens down? If any of those strike a chord, then I hope you this sermon can be a blessing to you.
Nate Silver wrote a profound article last summer. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Silver, he is a statistician who earned a solid reputation by correctly forecasting previous election results on his blog "Five Thirty Eight" (which is the total number of votes in the electoral college). His platform has since expanded, and he is now a regular contributor to various statistical-based discussions on ESPN.com. His discussions search for conclusions rooted in facts and evidence, and if anything his personal views (such as in his chats) seem to lean a little to the left. All of which is to say that he does not seem to have any sort of anti-liberal bias.
But back to his profound article from last summer. In that article, he looked at murder rates in countries that have a "high Human Development Index," which is "an overall measure of welfare and standard of living." In other words, countries that a high amount of resources and are governed by the rule of law. Thus, his article considered countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, France, Greece, Germany, and even Cuba, among many others; but excluded countries that are well-known but relatively impoverished and/or lack the Rule of Law (which often seem to go hand-in-hand), such as Brazil, Mexico, Libya, Somalia, and Syria.
At first blush, the United States' homicide rate of 5.2 homicides per 100,000 people was one of the highest among countries in his survey. And in fact, if you limited the study to the 31 most developed / advanced countries, then the United States' homicide rate of 5.2 was easily the highest among that group.
But as Mr. Silver is wont to do, he didn't stop at the surface. Rather, he dug further into the data. He divided the American victims of murder into four groups, by race: Overall, white, black, and Hispanic. And once he looked at the numbers that way, the result was quite different:
The data showed that the black community suffered 19.4 homicides per 100,000 people -- a rate that is almost triple the next worst country.
And so that got me thinking. We hear so much about black-on-black crime, but what do the numbers really say? How many of those homicides suffered by the black community are the result of black-on-black crime, as compared to white-on-black crime or other sources.
And that led me to this study from the U.S. Department of Justice. The study looked at homicide trends in the United States from 1980 through 2008. If you hit the link and scroll to page 13 of the study, you'll see this incredible -- but very alarming -- stat: Most murders are intraracial (within the same race), and "84% of white victims were killed by whites" and "93% of black victims were killed by blacks." In other words, white victims are killed by other white people 84% of the time, and black victims are killed by other black people 93% of the time. I'm not trying to do anything other than look at the honest, raw, and even painful numbers here, so please don't read anything else into it.
But as I said above, the reason I went looking for the black-on-black homicide rate is because of how startled I was about the 19.4 rate in the chart above. So now having this 93% number, I was able to go back and ask the question, what would the homicide rate look like in the black community if you only included black-on-black homicides? In other words, are whites really victimizing blacks as much as the media and the Black Lives Matters MOVEMENT would like us to believe, or is the problem stemming from something else?
And so when you combine those numbers, here's the result: Of the 19.4 homicides per 100,000 members of the black community, 93% of those deaths was caused by other members of the black community. Multiplying those numbers (19.4 * 0.93) still leaves a staggering rate of 18.0 homicides per 100,000 people in the black community that are caused by black-on-black violence.
If you go back and look at the chart above again, you'll see that the next highest country (among the HDI countries) is Lithuania, with 6.9 homicides per 100,000 people. The rate for America as a whole is 5.2 homicides per 100,000 people, which is almost exactly the same as the homicide rate of 5.3 / 100,000 people in the Hispanic community. And the rate for white Americans is only 2.5 / 100,000 people, which is still higher than most other HDI countries, but does not stand out nearly as much. But the rate of 18.0 homicides per 100,000 in America's black community caused by black-on-black violence is, and remains, staggering -- especially since it's almost triple the homicide rate of any other racial group within the United States.
And so that got me to thinking about the common refrain that we have a problem with the "American gun culture." If the American gun culture as a whole was the problem, then you would expect the aforementioned per capita numbers to be roughly equal. But yet, those per capita numbers are staggeringly different.
And that got me to thinking about what's so different within each of the various sub-cultures within America, and what other variables matter within the American culture in general.
I don't know the answers to that last question, but I am hopeful that at least framing the question begins a productive discussion that goes beyond the typical buzz words and accusations. Let's come together, put aside our differences, and begin to ponder what common aspects of the American culture (for example, Hollywood's glorification of violence?) and the differences of the various sub-cultures (for example, the way country music talks about guns vs. the way they are glorified in the Hip Hop culture) lead to these staggering differences.
While I absolutely believe that God is ultimately in control, I also believe that He gives us free will to make many of our decisions. And I also believe strongly that we can make those decisions more effectively when we are more educated on the actual facts, and when we work together instead of bucking against each other. And so why not begin that discussion here? Feel free to comment below (honestly but politely, please) or on my Facebook page.
I encounter a lot of Christians who seem confused between legal rights and what we should be teaching and espousing as believers. As one very obvious example, homosexual Americans have the legal right to get "married," including all of the obvious homosexual actions that come with that. But God, on the other hand, has made clear that any homosexual action is a sin, and that, in fact, unrepentant homosexual actors will not enter the kingdom of heaven (leaving only one eternal option, which I genuinely wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy).
So how do we handle that? Well, here's some Old Testament guidance that God gave to His people in another scenario where the laws of the surrounding nations were at odds with God's holy commands and decrees:
"You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 18:3-4)
And so at this point, some of you may be saying, "BUT I'M NOT ENGAGING IN HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR! AND I'M NOT A MUSLIM WORSHIPPING A FALSE GOD! LET IT GO ALREADY!!!"
But look at what else God commands us to do -- and this is in the New Testament writings, as well as in the Old:
"As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, TO BE A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5)
And what was one of the primary jobs of the Jewish priests? The same job as Jesus commanded his disciples -- to teach the people of the world all that He taught us. Our job is not to convert. Our job is to teach what Jesus taught (including the whole counsel of God's Word), to proclaim His name and His Truths, and to witness to what He has done and is doing in our lives.
And so, as we continue to teach and proclaim God's truth on the "hot button" issues of culture, our job is not to win converts. Our job is to teach a very lost and misguided culture the truths that God's Word proclaims on the various issues that concern those around us, as well as other truths that our culture may not even realize matter to God.
The good news is, Jesus has already won the war. We get to freely go forth proclaiming that good news, inviting all to put down their weapons of sinful rebellion and be freely welcomed into His victory. But being included in such salvation requires BOTH putting your trust in Jesus Christ (belief) AND turning from your sins (repentance). And you cannot do the latter if God's own priesthood of believers is unwilling to tell you that your sins are sins, or if they/we are advocating things that are directly contrary to God's Word, which is a sin in and of itself (see Romans 1:18-32).
And so if you are a Christian in that very last category -- teaching or approving of things which God has called sinful -- then I hope this encourages you to repent from your own sin. Remember, our job is not to convert. Our job is not to be approved by the culture, or to be popular. Our job is to speak God's truth, in love, into a lost world. But we cannot speak truth in love if we are unwilling to speak truth in the first place.
Blessings, and Good Day to All! :)
"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27)