A Sad Song of Human Depravity: Reflections on Racism and the Hope of the Gospel


On Sunday and Monday, a couple of videos surfaced of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity from the campus of the University of Oklahoma singing racist lyrics. In these two short clips, the young men chant that you can hang them from a tree but pledge that no African American will be a member of SAE [1]. Of course, their language is coarse and offensive. It is disheartening and difficult to imagine that young men in 2015 could joyfully chant about the lynching of African Americans.

This awful song points to an ugly reality. Human sinfulness is far-reaching. Our wicked hearts can lead us to the worst and most cruel behavior. Amidst attempts by our culture to right the awful wrongs of our nation’s past, these shocking videos reveal that racism is persistent, and it ultimately points to the fact that we need a cure that gets to the very heart of a person.

Truly, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only cure for our terrible depravity. He is the One who changes sinful hearts and brings true reconciliation among people. In New Testament times, there was often hostility between Jews and Gentiles. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul taught that the blood of Christ could eliminate hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, paving the way for true reconciliation.

Consider these powerful words from Paul’s letter, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2.14-16 ESV).

What do these verses teach us? The true remedy for human sinfulness, a sinfulness that can bring the worst kind of hostility is found in Jesus. Through the cross, our deep-seated sin can be forgiven and transformed, and we can be reconciled to one another!

Where is the one place on earth where true harmony among diverse people should be seen most clearly? It is in the church where we share this wonderful, heart-transforming, reconciling grace. We all have this in common. We are really sinful, and we really need Jesus! If we can understand that, we can get along. The blood of Christ really does unite us.

May this sad song of human depravity remind us of our great need for Jesus. And may we take hope as one day these sad songs will give way to a beautiful and glorious song. On that day, people from every tribe and tongue will gather around the throne of God in one, united voice, offering a splendid song of worship to our Savior and King (Rev 7:9-12). Won’t it be a glorious Day!

[1] Manny Fernandez and Richard Pérez-Peña, “Fraternity Is Closed Over Video With Slurs,” New York Times, March 9, 2015.