If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. [1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)]
Last month, there were sentencing hearings for two politicians in a northern state. One pled guilty to bribery and the other pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Even though both men abused their positions and betrayed the public’s trust, both of their lawyers argued that their clients’ crimes really weren’t that bad so they didn’t deserve time in jail. In direct reference to the crimes of a former governor of their state, one lawyer argued that wire fraud and money laundering were insignificant when compared to bribing government officials to get lucrative contracts, trying to buy a Senate seat, or shaking down hospitals to get campaign contributions. After the other lawyer pointed out how little money his client actually pocketed from his crime, he called his client’s bribery “a brief dalliance with corruption,” cast the blame on another corrupt official who encouraged him, and assured the court that his client wasn’t a bad person but just a “good person who made a mistake in judgment.”
Along with minimizing their clients’ crimes, both lawyers presented another similar argument in their attempts to keep them out of prison. Granted, these hearings took place in a state where four of the last eleven governors went to prison but they both contended that sentencing their clients to prison was pointless since prison sentences given to other corrupt politicians hadn’t stopped corruption. Claiming that preventing corruption with prison was futile, one lawyer compared it to trying to drain Lake Michigan with a spoon! I suspect the possibility of prison doesn’t deter most criminals simply because they don’t plan on getting caught! When committing their crimes, these politicians never expected having to face the consequences of their actions.
We are quick to highlight and own our victories but even quicker to downplay and disown our failures! When caught, like those politicians, we often try to deny responsibility, spread the blame, rationalize, and minimize our guilt.
In contrast, consider David. While he wasn’t perfect, we’d call him a good man. In fact, Scripture refers to him as a man after God’s heart because he did everything God wanted him to do. Of course, being human, he also did some things God didn’t want him to do! Like those politicians, this good man made some serious mistakes in judgment. Instead of fraud or bribery, he abused his power when he dallied with Bathsheba and arranged for Uriah’s death.
While crooked politicians may escape the arm of the law, let us remember that none of us can escape God! I’m sure David thought he’d gotten away with his sins by the time Nathan confronted him about a year later. In contrast to those politicians, however, David didn’t minimize them, compare them favorably with the sins of others, or attempt to evade their consequences! He didn’t blame Bathsheba by claiming she enticed him, Uriah for not sleeping with his wife, or Joab for putting Uriah in harm’s way. He simply admitted, “I have sinned against the Lord.” [2 Sam. 12:13] Although the Lord forgave him, the price David paid for his sins was steep. The child Bathsheba conceived in adultery died, three more of David’s sons died violent deaths, and his son Absalom claimed David’s throne by having relations with the king’s concubines publicly.
Regardless of what you call it, a sin is a sin and every sin separates us from God and deserves the death penalty. Fortunately, the blood of Christ and our heartfelt confession and repentance have commuted the sentence we so rightly deserve. Forgiveness, however, doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. Let us learn from David—honestly confess our sins and accept their consequences without complaint.
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. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. [Psalm 51:1-4 (NLT)]
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