When we look for the best in others, we look for the best in ourselves. When we work at finding the worst in others, we are really looking for ways to excuse our own faults, shortcomings, and failures.
“At least I’m not as bad as so and so.”
In what currently passes for journalism it is easy to find the “tell all” book. This writing style relishes the revelation of embarrassing and humiliating aspects of it’s subject. You never hear the term without knowing the recriminations it brings. The “tell all” has no intention of telling all the acts of charity or kindness it’s object has shown over the course of his or her lifetime; only the bad of which, truth be told, we all possess a measure. When this is considered I think it is safe to say that none of us have right or reason to indulge the author of such a work because any one of us could be his subject.
In addition, there really is no such thing as a “tell all.” The whole life of a person cannot be told. Only God could tell it and only He could know it, and from the weight of Scripture I think it is safe to say He is more concerned that you and I tend to our own lives rather than the lives of others, whether they are celebrities or neighbors, co-workers or relatives. But often we scurry around the boundaries of other lives, like squirrels after acorns, we seek out nutty bits of information that do us, the listener, no good, and do equal harm to the teller and the object of his telling. If we listen to the talebearer with secret pleasure, there is a place somewhere in our hearts where we know we may well be the next tale told, and in that place there is a fear that our secrets will find their way out into the world.
Secrets are what got King David into so much trouble. He secretly stole up to his rooftop at night and saw Bathsheba bathing, and in his heart, that most secret of secret places, he desired her.
He summoned her and slept with her, impregnated her. Here the trouble begins. Bathsheba is married to a captain in David’s army named, Uriah.
David summons Uriah from the battlefield and in an act of great deception feeds and intoxicates the man. In this condition David tells him to go home and “be” with his wife. David is trying to cover his tracks knowing that if Uriah co-habitates with Bathsheba everyone will think Uriah is the father. However, Uriah is an honorable man; “How could I do this thing with my men in the field?” He refuses.
The king, by way of intrigue, has the man killed. He then marries Bathsheba. She has the baby, a little boy, but it dies soon after being born. Because of his actions “the sword” never leaves David’s life. Four of his sons die, one of whom (Absolom) tries to usurp the throne and have David killed. The secrets David kept, the ones he thought no one would ever know, found their way out and devastated him.
I retell that biblical account, which can be found in II Samuel chapters 11-13, for the following reason: It is not uncommon for people to fall into sin and then justify it with a statement like this: “God called David ‘a man after My own heart’ and just look at all the things he did.” To make such a statement is to reveal a person’s true disposition. One who is repentant over sin would never say such a thing. Should we believe that after David lost four sons, after his life was in utter turmoil for the next twenty years that he would say to someone, “Oh yes, I know I’ve lost so much and caused much suffering, but you know I am a man after God’s own heart so all is well?”
The Bible does indeed say David was a man after God’s own heart, but not in relation to the issue of his behavior toward Uriah. To deceive, to murder, to lie is not consistent with being called “a man after God’s own heart.” In relation to those actions God judged David by telling him that the sword would never leave his house. If we would cling to God’s mercy in the face of such rebellion, how can we escape His judgement for the same enterprise? If we will sin and hold to David’s good standing based on that famous description “a man after My own heart”, we would do well to realize that David suffered greatly despite being the bearer of such a compliment. We cannot take the one and leave the other.
David And Bathsheba
Warning, not Permission
If our disposition is one of truth and sincerity we will see David’s errors as a warning. These are things for us NOT to do. Yet this lesson is often missed in the name of compassion.
Scottish minister Alistair Begg said that if you are not willing to turn from your sin, to truly repent, then “do not expect for one moment that the grace of God will be ministered to you.”
Our disposition is revealed by the way we see and interpret the Scriptures, not just the passages that describe King David’s issues, but all Scriptures. We have to work hard at getting ourselves into line with what God wants to say to us through them and dismiss the attitude of hearing what we want Him to be saying to us. This isn’t easy and religion doesn’t do us any favors by trying to make it easy. Well meaning friends and ministers will do so much to soften the blow, but in reality sinning against God should present itself to our consciousness as a foul and rotting carcass, as a slap in the face, as news so bad it makes our knees buckle. That’s how it was for David when Nathan confronted him with what he had done to Uriah. David fell to the ground in realization of his sin and repented. In spite of his repentance he suffered great loss. Remember that. Remember it when a well meaning friend tries to comfort you in your sin by telling you, “don’t worry, look at all David did and he was a man after God’s own heart.” Yes, and that man suffered more than any of us would ever want to.
This is the challenge before us: What kind of person am I and what kind of disposition do I have? Do I see God’s mercy as something that provides me with an escape clause? Is my life with God more about how much I can get away with than it is how much I will work with Him so that I am changed? What is my disposition in relation to Him? Am I Zaccheus who gladly sold his possessions and gave the proceeds to the poor and paid back all those he had defrauded four times the amount of that fraud? Am I Paul, that great and learned man who counted all his knowledge and all his training as "rubbish that I might know Christ?" Or am I the rich young ruler who, as the gospel tells us, "went away sad" when Jesus bid him sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. He wanted heaven, but he wanted his idols too. With God, there cannot be both. To know Him is to begin a journey wherein I begin to become like Him. I lose more and more of myself and gain more and more of Him, until I can say with sincerity, "Not my will, but Thy will be done." Our disposition to God is measurable not by what we gain, but by what we lose. Am I losing lust, greed, fear, and yes if He calls me to it, my possessions?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the term "cheap grace." Cheap grace is grace that costs me nothing yet grants me everything- all the riches of heaven and of earth. Cheap grace is false grace; it is not grace at all. It is a deception that cheapens the very concept of forgiveness by reducing it to a means by which I may obtain. In reality, grace allows us to see what our lust and love of possessions really is- a burden; a burden just like Bunyan's Christian Pilgrim. The cumbersome load we thought contained all we needed proved to be the thing that turned us into a pack mule. Forgiveness sets us free to do what is right, not what is wrong.
The forgiveness of God is not so much an eraser as it is a new foundation upon which the forgiven may rebuild his life. May we be found worthy of it.