What Richard Sherman Taught Us About America: A Reply to Isaac Saul’s Article By Nathan Battey
In other words, America has been too harsh on Richard Sherman; he doesn’t deserve the backlash he has received. What we really need to do is quit judging people and be more accepting – more tolerant.
There are several issues I have with Mr. Saul’s article that I would like to address. It may seem petty to make a big deal over something that seems as insignificant as Richard Sherman’s rant, but I believe his actions and Mr. Saul’s defense of them tell us more about the society in which we live than America’s reaction.
America demonstrated through their reaction that they do recognize some form of Natural (Moral) Law. Natural Laws are laws that God expects man to be able to discover without any form of revelation. For example: Why is murder wrong in every nation on earth? Why is murder wrong even in nations where people do not believe in or read the Bibles? It is wrong because humans can reach that conclusion through natural means – their ability to reason. In fact, not only can people figure out Natural Laws such as murder, but God expects them to. In Romans 2:14-15 the apostle Paul points out that Natural Laws exists and that all humans are subject to them. Even though the Gentiles were not given the Old Testament Law (Revealed Law), some of them actually kept parts of it without knowing it because they did by nature that which was right, and their consciences bore them witness. Thus Paul establishes Natural Law as a fact based upon the Gentiles’ ability to keep it without direct revelation from God.
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul runs through a list of sins committed by some Gentiles for which they were without excuse. One of the sins listed there is the sin of homosexuality where Paul exclaims, “their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Paul is basing his argument here on a violation of Natural Law. In fact, all of the sins Paul mentions at the end of this chapter are violations of Natural Law. In a list that includes the likes of murder, homosexuality, disobedient to parents, and sexual immorality, Paul lumps in pride and boasting. Just as men can recognize a violation of Natural Law when murder is committed, they can also recognize a violation when people demonstrate pride, arrogance, and boasting. Though we as humans tend to classify some sins as big sins and others as small sins (pride being one of the smaller ones) God lumps them together. However, God does distinguish between Natural Law and Positive (Revealed) Law; all humans are bound by Natural Law, but not all humans are bound by Positive (Revealed) Law – only those that are given Positive Law are bound by it.
So, what does all of this discussion of Natural vs. Positive Law have to do with Mr. Sherman’s actions and Mr. Saul’s article? America’s reaction to Richard Sherman’s behavior was justified because his actions were a violation of Natural Law. Sherman’s actions were such that everyone should recognize them as wrong and reject them. Though it may be true that the world is not always consistent in its recognitions of the violation of Natural Law, the point still stands that on this occasion America did recognize it and was offended by it. Good for America.
Mr. Saul’s defense of Richard Sherman is actually fourfold in nature:
1- People need to overlook his behavior because of his upbringing.
2- Richard Sherman’s good deeds really outweigh his bad deed (meritorious works).
3- Behavior should be excused not corrected.
4- We shouldn’t judge people negatively; we should be more accepting.
First, Isaac Saul agues that Richard Sherman has overcome tremendous obstacles to get to where he is in life (which no one is denying), but at the same times excuses his behavior because of these obstacles. Listen again carefully to what Isaac Saul wrote:
“But in reality, what Richard Sherman did was teach us about ourselves. He taught us that we're still a country that isn't ready for lower-class Americans from neighborhoods like Compton to succeed. We're still a country that can't decipher a person's character. But most of all, he taught us that no matter what you overcome in your life, we're still a country that can't accept someone if they're a little louder, a little prouder, or a little different from the people we surround ourselves with.”
Here is Isaac Saul’s argument in a nutshell: Sherman acts differently than we do (not that he acted wrong) – he acts louder and prouder - because he grew up in Compton; we need to accept that and focus rather on his great accomplishments in life. Here’s my point: It does not matter where a person grows up- everyone is bound by Natural Law. I am glad Sherman has overcome poverty and has attained a college degree, but his economic status as a child and his accomplishments in life do not excuse his behavior on national television.
Second, Isaac Saul is actually preaching justification by meritorious works. In other words, we need to look at all the good things Richard Sherman has done, and weigh them against a single bad deed, and then determine what kind of person he is. This is exactly what the Jews were doing when they were condemned by Christ in Luke 16:14-15. The Jews thought they were really good people because their good deeds outweighed their bad deeds, but Christ did not see things the same way. Here’s the point: When we sin we need to seek forgiveness not justification based on meritorious works. When Christians defend unbelievers based on a system of merit it won’t be long until we are defending ourselves in the same way.
Third, Isaac Saul is arguing that what Richard Sherman did was not wrong – it was just different. “… we're still a country that can't accept someone if they're a little louder, a little prouder, or a little different from the people we surround ourselves with.” I could understand someone arguing that everyone needs to be little more patient and give Sherman a chance to repent, but I will not accept wrong behavior being excused. What Sherman did was a violation of Natural Law and it was wrong; America deserves an apology.
The day after his rant, Sherman had a news conference in which he apologized for taking the focus off of his team’s accomplishment and for having spoken badly of Michael Crabtree. He then proceeded to excuse himself by saying, “I was on a football field showing passion. Maybe it was misdirected, maybe things may have been immature, or things could have been worded better, but this is on a football field. I wasn’t committing any crime, you know doing anything illegal. I was showing passion after a football game.” You see, Sherman never apologized and never admitted wrong other than to maybe his teammates for stealing the spotlight. He excused his actions due to passion and immaturity, and then tried to make himself look better by comparing his actions with those of other athletes who have committed illegal acts. Sorry Mr. Sherman, Romans 1 does not place you on a higher plain than others who break the law. America still deserves an apology. Whatever happened to men like David who declared, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” (2 Samuel 24:10).
Lastly, Isaac Saul’s article highlights what is generally America’s motto – “We need to be more loving and accepting.”
I’m tired of everyone telling me that I need to be more accepting of sin. I don’t hate Richard Sherman nor would I ever treat him ill. Pointing out that someone is wrong is not being hateful. Jude 22-23 teaches we need to reach out to people who need help, but we must also hate the sin that ensnares them. It goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin – not the sinner.” Unfortunately people have become so wrapped up in sin that they can no longer distinguish between sin and who they are. People have proudly accepted sin as a part of their life and see rejection of sin as a rejection of self. However, just because people have lost sight of reality does not mean I have to also; hate the sin – not the sinner.
How as Christians are we supposed to change the world without pointing out the nature and consequences of sin and demanding that people change? From the very beginning of the gospel cry John the Baptist preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). Turning a blind eye to sin does not make it go away. May Christians always have the courage to speak the truth in love and try to make a change in a world of sin.
Isaac Saul was right about there being some things Richard Sherman taught us, he was just wrong about what the real lessons were. Here is what I hope we have learned:
1- America’s reaction taught us that there is still hope because some people can still recognize sin.
2- Isaac Saul’s article taught us some obstacles we must overcome in preaching the Gospel.
3- Together, Richard Sherman and Isaac Saul reminded us that there is work to be done.