My wife and I watched The Express: The Ernie Davis Story last night. It’s about Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy (given to the best player each year in college football). We all know America’s ugly history of racism, but it was shocking again to see it played out during his life 50 years ago.
I especially get angry when people use Jesus Christ as rationale for their racism. In the movie there is a scene when Syracuse (Davis’ team) was playing against Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The Texas players had been making racial slurs the entire game and one of them asked the center before the ball was snapped, “Aren’t you ashamed as a white Christian to play with them?” The center responds, “Nope. I’m Jewish.”
This is so frustrating because not only is racism sinful in Christianity, but more importantly, it is a denial of the gospel. It is a rejection of the glorious truth that Jesus Christ died on a cross for all sinners to redeem people from every tongue, tribe and race for God. The Bible is clear on this.
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 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, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. – Ephesians 2:13-21
Jesus Christ is our peace, for he has removed the dividing wall between all peoples. All those who are in Christ are reconciled to God in one body.
There are lots of walls between so many different peoples today. We need to hear again and again that Jesus Christ tears those walls down. Like Jesus, we need to preach peace.
Back to Ernie Davis
Tragically Ernie Davis died when he was only 23 years old. But in that short time he accomplished much, not only in football, but in building a more just society. The movie gives the answer for how he was able to accomplish so much and I agree heartily. In the beginning you see Ernie’s grandfather teaching him this verse, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
For football fans, check out this short clip of Ernie Davis playing.