Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Psalms 51:4
It was a visit I did not relish. I’d discovered that one of my colleagues had been “unmasked,” and it was necessary to learn the truth. In my work, calling and integrity are characteristics critical to effective ministry, and the integrity of my friend was being called into question.
There were numbers of troubling factors to consider. The events had occurred several years ago, but they were just coming to light. My charismatic friend readily charmed everyone she met. There seemed no reason to doubt her veracity and professions of repentance.
Here were some things we had to process: my friend’s confession occurred after the egregious wrong was discovered. As we talked, I was told that the problems were being exacerbated because “someone was out to get her.” And then there was the finger-pointing and self-pity.
It was easy enough to find a case with some relevance. King David lustfully took what wasn’t his when he saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her house. David was told that she was married but violated her and then sent her home. When she notified David that she was pregnant, he sent for her husband, one of his outstanding warriors. Faithful Uriah refused to go home to his wife while the armies of Israel were still out in the field. Finally, David plotted to have Uriah killed and gave Uriah the message that would lead to his own death.
God was angry with David reminding him of all he’d done in and for him. As the prophet Nathan spoke to him, David was crushed and confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13). David went on to compose the 51st Psalm in which he writes, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge… Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”
David didn’t blame anyone for his sin; he didn’t make excuses; he didn’t point fingers; and he didn’t try to justify himself. He accepted responsibility for his behavior and understood the grief his sin had caused God who loved him most. David repented. Perhaps he had felt remorse before God’s Spirit confronted him through the prophet, but when faced with truth, David knew he was guilty.
My friend hasn’t yet learned the difference between remorse and repentance. She is sorry she was caught, but she hasn’t recognized the pride that blocks true confession—“I have sinned against the Lord.” She doesn’t yet weep over her sin. She weeps over the cost of her “unmasking.” Until she is able to grieve for her sin, she can’t move forward into truth and freedom. And there will be no deep healing.
There will continue to be anger at those who exposed her rather than the joy of receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. But God who is willing to forgive will wait and will possibly send friends like me to love and walk with her until she is ready to take responsibility for her sin. God is good; he can make a way; and he is remarkable in his ability to restore.
Father, how much we all need your Spirit to guide us and to convict us when we sin. Thank you that you are able to keep us from falling. Help us to live and move and have our being in you so that we walk consistently in your righteousness and bring you glory. And help my friend; give her understanding and a willing heart. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.