Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. [Psalm 51:1-4 (NLT)]
Tonight, we’ll experience what’s called a “blue moon,” a somewhat rare occurrence of two full moons in the same month. A few years ago the Chicago Public Library had what they called the “Once in a Blue Moon Amnesty” program. For three weeks, any late fees were waived on all overdue material, no matter how late it was. Apparently, many people prefer keeping their books, magazines and DVDs rather than paying steep fines as a consequence for their late return. The amnesty was offered in hope of getting more than two million dollars’ worth of media back on the shelves. It had been twenty years since the city ran a similar program of reprieve. Avoiding the consequences of our actions, like the Chicago Public Library’s amnesty offer, usually only happens “once in a blue moon!”
David was famous: he was a musician and shepherd, a giant killer and celebrated warrior, a great king and the author of most of the psalms. Nevertheless, he was human and David, like the rest of us, fell into sin. Adultery with Bathsheba was just one of them; he also murdered Bathsheba’s husband Uriah by sending him to his certain death. When David finally confessed his transgressions, the prophet Nathan assured him that they were forgiven. Nathan added that God’s forgiveness didn’t mean David wouldn’t suffer the consequences of his sins: his child by Bathsheba, conceived while she was still married to Uriah, would die. David’s confession and apology to God were not enough to eliminate the consequences of his actions; there was no amnesty for him.
Hopefully, when we wrong others, we confess, apologize and try to make amends. Nevertheless, our confession, someone’s forgiveness, and even restitution won’t free us from consequences. We may still lose respect, a job, a friend or even a marriage. Our actions may lead to a punishment as simple as a traffic ticket or as serious as time in prison. A child may be put in “time out,” a teenager might be grounded and a college student could be put on academic probation. We may receive a poor performance review, not be allowed to participate in an activity, be expelled from school or find a relationship irrevocably destroyed. We could lose money, status or even our family. If we choose to sin, we must be prepared for the consequences of that sin. Amnesty is rarely an option.
We ask God to forgive our sins and he does. We must never forget, however, that God’s promise of forgiveness is not like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the game of Monopoly. Neither God’s forgiveness nor the forgiveness of those we’ve wronged will exonerate us from the consequences of our actions in this game of life.