The Los Angeles Lakers are terrible. And their locker room culture got a whole lot worse last week. In a hotel room, rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell secretly video taped his teammate, Nick Young, as Russell asked him questions about various women in his life. Nick Young is engaged to Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, and yet in the video, speaks freely about his relationships with other women.
After the video surfaced on a gossip site, the reaction has been swift and severe. D’Angelo Russell has been ostracized from his teammates, press conferences have been scheduled and had, and I’m sure there are plenty of other relational difficulties to go along with the situation. The sports world is talking about unfaithfulness, but it’s primarily about the unfaithfulness between teammates not the faithfulness in an engagement. Because the locker room is a sacred place with a sacred kind of trust, the true villain here is D’Angelo Russell. He’s the guy who violated trust.
Once again, the villain here is Russell. He’s the one who broke this trust – something that brothers don’t to do one another. For Russell’s part, he continues to say that he doesn’t know exactly how the video got online. He never intended to post it, only to use it to play a prank, which the two have evidently been known to do.
There are a lot of things we can learn from this story. As a parent, it’s a reminder for me to teach my kids that nothing – NOTHING – is truly gone or erased in an online world. It’s a chance to think through issues of privacy if indeed D’Angelo didn’t post the video himself. But the story also raises the question of what brothers do and do not to to and for each other. And while this issue might not be of great importance to D’Angelo russell or Nick Young, it is of great importance to us.
This is a reminder for me, and potentially for you, that a brother does not play games with sin.
Sure, we might kid and joke. We might rib and mess around. But when it comes to the issue of sin, we don’t (or at least shouldn’t) mess around with it. That’s because doing so runs counter to the whole reason why we are in relationships to begin with.
For the Christian, relationships are not just in our lives to make us not feel lonely, or to have someone to go to the movies with, or someone to talk to. They are about more than shared interests, common workplaces, and similar hobbies. For the Christian, friendships are about living out the image of God imprinted upon our spiritual DNA and seeing each other grow into the likeness of Jesus.
From the very beginning, God looked at man and said clearly that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). That’s not because man is an inherently lonely creature; it’s because we were created in God’s image. And God, in His very nature, is relational. From before time began, God existed in a perfect relational harmony with Himself, perfectly content and happy as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man, as the image-bearer of God, has a relational capacity and need that points us to God’s own nature.
But then came sin. The fall. And everything was flipped upside down. Oh, we are still the image-bearers of God, but that image has been marred and corrupted in every way imaginable including relationally. Now we look at relationships not as a mutually edifying with a balance of giving and receiving all built on the foundation of contentment in God alone. Instead, we see people as tools to be used for our own enjoyment, gratification, or insecurity.
But God, in the gospel, redeems all things, and that includes the way we relate to one another. Indeed, we now, as the children of God, have a responsibility for one another, not just to hang out, but to make sure that we are together moving toward Christlikeness.
In short, we are friends so we can be more like Jesus.
And if that’s true, we can’t play games with sin. We confess it, we talk about it, we hold each other accountable for it, but we don’t make it a joke.
I’m not sure in the end what will happen to the locker room of the LA Lakers. I don’t know if D’Angelo Russell will be so ostracized for his perceived betrayal that he will have to move on. I don’t know if Nick Young’s relationships will be mended. But I do know that there are treasured relationships in my life. And I have a responsibility in those relationships to take them seriously enough that sin is not a laughing matter.