Here’s what you need to know about Quinton de Kock, South African cricketer: he was named as his nation’s Men’s Cricketer of the Year in 2020, he has captained the Test team, was the fastest South African to reach 1000 One Day International runs, and has scored an international half-century in seventeen deliveries. Here’s what most people know about Quinton de Kock, a South African cricketer: he might be a racist.
He might be a racist, according to the tide of popular opinion, because at the beginning of a recent cricket game, he decided against getting down on one knee with the rest of his teammates, as he was instructed to do shortly before the game began. Of course, Quinton de Kock, a South African cricketer, is not a racist. He is not a racist because he has not said, done, posted, or retweeted any racist things; there is no evidence he has ever even sniggered at a racist joke. But none of that matters. He was told to kneel, and he wouldn’t. His resistance, however, was brief; a social media post appeared shortly after his stance made headlines around the world, in which he appealed to his own family’s racial diversity, apologised for his refusal to kneel and pleaded for his place back in the team. He may yet be forgiven, he may yet be allowed to continue, but in the minds of many, he may also be a racist.
So this is where we are: up is down, down is up, independent thinking is mutiny, and public figures will have to comply or look for another line of work. There’s no endgame down this road – no point at which enough has been done; it’s simply a question of trying to find out the next way to avoid being publicly branded as something terrible before your reputation is irreversibly damaged. The world wants a society without injustice, but it has no method of actually attaining that goal apart from shaming and intimidating. Along the way, there are hardworking, decent people being forced to grovel to hold on to what they have. It’s not pretty. Then again, the ways of the world are never pretty. They’re ultimately futile. The world sees a desirable result and then sets about pounding on the lectern, demanding that it materialises. And as the church watches these things unfold, we have a very important question to answer:
What, Exactly, Does God Expect Us to Do About Sin in the World?
Christians & Sin
As people across society take their stand against racism, abuse and injustice, what are the people of God meant to be doing? What does God want us to do?
As it turns out, the answer is stunningly simple: God expects His people to deal with the sin in their own lives. He has not told us to rid the world of sin; He has told us to rid ourselves of sin. And if the church can grasp that one thing amidst the clutter and chaos of the kneeling and chanting and intimidation and culture-shaming and tearful Instagram penance, we’ll actually be able to think straight. Think about it: there is absolutely no precedent in the Bible for an anti-sin stance imposed on others to prove your own righteousness. We are simply told to deal with our own lives. That is our stance. I don’t need to get on my knee to prove to the world that I am not a racist; the fact that I reject racism as sinful and refuse to allow it in my own life is proof enough. The Bible never tells me to frantically signal to the world around me that I am not a horrible sinner – it just tells me to rid myself of the sin in my own life. None of this is to say that standing against sin is pointless – it’s to say that a particular way of standing against sin can, and clearly does, go beyond what God requires of us.
God expects His people to deal with the sin in their own lives.
Scriptural Examples of Dealing With Sin
Peter the Apostle, interestingly enough, had a problem with racial discrimination. On a trip to Antioch, where Paul was based, Peter ate meals and associated freely with Gentiles even though he was a Jew because he knew that through the cross, God had broken down the barriers of hostility between people groups. However, when some errant, hard-line Jewish believers arrived from Jerusalem, Peter withdrew from his new Gentile brothers and sisters, intimidated by the glares of his fellow countrymen. Paul, unable to deal with the hypocrisy, publicly confronted him, calling him out in front of everyone (Galatians 2:11-14). Peter was completely in the wrong, but here’s the thing: what he did next was to adjust his own behaviour and move on. He would have repented for his actions before God and man and then got on with his life, acting in a different way. There is absolutely no evidence that he proceeded to begin every public event with a token gesture of solidarity against discrimination, asking everyone else why they weren’t joining in and putting pressure on them all. No, he needed to deal with his own sin – the future absence of it was confirmation that he had taken a stand against it. It was all the proof he needed to give.
Paul, likewise, was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man (1 Timothy 1:13). Indeed, it seems as though he was intent on being abusive towards women, wanting to forcefully take them as prisoners along with men (Acts 9:2). Once he was born again, he repented of his sinful ways. However, we have no indication that he began meetings with some kind of signal to show that he stood against violence to women, scanning the room to see who was in solidarity with him. Paul did not create a hand signal to broadcast his support for the rights of women and then stare down anyone who refused to do it with him. He rid himself of the sin in his own life, and the fact that it was no longer there afterwards showed his stance; that was all he was required to do. We do not see more than that in Scripture.
Correcting Our Focus
And this is the problem with the world’s way of dealing with sin: so much of it is empty posturing. Undoubtedly, there are sincere people trying to right wrongs and heal hurts, but they are going about it the wrong way; they are going beyond what God instructs. Their gaze is always directed outwards at what others are saying, doing and thinking. Their attention is always focused on someone else, how they fall short and whether they adequately prove their commitment to a cause. It’s the exact thing Jesus condemned when He told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee looked at himself only in relation to the man next to him; he patted himself on the back for his own progress, enlightenment and ability to do what is right. Whereas the tax collector only had eyes for himself, his own sin, his own need of mercy. He went home justified before God. He had the right response. He was prepared to confront his own sin.
The conviction of sin is not outwardly forced – it’s inwardly felt.
The conviction of sin is not outwardly forced – it’s inwardly felt. I have a feeling that Quinton de Kock may have been kicking out against something to do with that distinction. His bizarre situation has been the subject of many think pieces, office corridor conversations and social media posts, and there will be many more of these types of scenarios. I have no judgement against him. He seems like an honest guy trying to get on with the sport he loves. I appreciate the stand he took and what it cost him, even if he ultimately went back on it. I don’t know what he believes, and he certainly didn’t invoke any spiritual conviction or Christian ethic, but if I had a chance to speak to him, or anyone in his precarious position, I would say this:
To have a career, livelihood or dream threatened is a terrifying thing, and the fear of people’s power over us will make us bend in ways we never thought we could. The shouts of a power-hungry mob will test any of us. But there is a God who delivers us from that fear. There is a God who also sets Himself against racism, abuse and injustice. But He doesn’t keep endlessly shifting the goalposts of what that means. He offers hope to look to, not hoops to jump through. He actually forgives, giving people the grace to move forward. He is not part of a fickle, flawed organisation or a hypocritical, virtue-signalling crowd. He is the King of Glory, wrapped in light, intimidated by no one and dispensing perfect justice.
He is Jesus, and one day we’re all going to involuntarily take the knee when He returns. There will be no exceptions. Let’s care what He thinks, and let’s do what He says, and no more than that. And if we’re going to stand in solidarity with anyone, let it be with Him first.