Sin is a reality. It exists. We all do it. Everyone invokes the displeasure of God at various times or events in life. The bald reality of church ministry is that it must deal with the presence of sin in both its members and its systems. Even David, described as a man who was like God in the way he operated toward others, sinned egregiously at points in his life. Undeniably, the biggest example of a fall in David’s life came in his adultery with Bathsheba, and the events that came afterward (2 Samuel 11).
At the time of year when David should have been doing the work of a king, which was to protect and serve the nation of Israel as the military leader, he stayed in Jerusalem. He was not doing his kingly duty (2 Samuel 11:1). David was at the pinnacle of success. There was relative peace. There were no major threats to the nation. The kingdom was generally happy and prosperous. David had fought all his major military wars with great success and was securely in power. At this point, he was a middle-aged man, not as vigorous as he once was with perhaps a bit of a paunch that comes with age. And this is what set David up for a major fall: he was content and resting on his laurels, walking around on the roof of his palace instead of in the trenches with his men.
The word “sent” is used five times in the first six verses. This is significant. David sent people to do his bidding. The portrayal here is not of the gracious king who is seeking to use his power for loving purposes in the kingdom; it is the picture of an earthly king doing what typical earthly kings did by ordering others around and using his authority to get what he wants. We are meant to see the reversal in David’s disposition from outwardly gracious to inwardly selfish. He set himself up for a big hairy audacious fall. None of us are immune from falling into sin.
This is not just how individuals fall; this is how institutions as well as churches plummet. When any church begins to be concerned only for itself and what it can inwardly accomplish for its own and does not outwardly seek to be gracious to those not in the church, that church has set itself up for a collapse which will end in the displeasure of God.
Stories of people who topple into sin are all pretty much the same. Having some power, people use it to assert control over another person or group to get what they want. We must call it what it is: sin. It is evil. It is a violation of God. There cannot be any turning away from sin if we do not call it sin to start with. If we deny there is a problem, the problem will never be solved. David committed adultery. He lied. He manipulated. He covered-up. David murdered not only Uriah, but other men in the regiment to ensure that he would be dead. This was not a mistake. It wasn’t a lapse in judgment. It was sin in all its foulness and degradation. And the way to deal with it would not be to say something like “I did it, but it wasn’t really me; I’m not really like that!” Well, apparently, you are. Maybe David thought he was above all this and believed it wasn’t really something he could ever do. But he did.
What is more: sin causes us to sell-out our principles. Sin only begets more sin until we deal with it. Sin will always distort the truth so that we minimize the impact of our words and actions. The opposite of repentance is cover-up. Truth celebrates openness and honesty; sin seeks the shadows and prizes secrecy. Many people have fallen into awful sin. The first step is not to minimize it, ignore it, or pretend it isn’t that big of a deal. The first step is to agree with God that this is sin and to admit that it displeases him. If we do not go down this path of truth, then we will be forever encrusting our lives with ways of ensuring that no one ever knows. In fact, much of religious legalism is nothing more than a person piling on the rules in order for others to not see the sin that hides deep within. Turning from the sin and receiving the grace of forgiveness of Jesus Christ is the only true and real path to spiritual wholeness and happiness in life.
Results that satisfy us do not necessarily satisfy God. David accomplished what he wanted: he covered up his sin and got the woman he wanted. But God saw the whole thing and was not okay with any of it. We cannot simply assume that because we do something and there was no immediate lightning strike that it was okay. It does not matter if it happened yesterday, last month, or twenty years ago. If we did not deal with the sin, God is not satisfied because he wants to dispense grace and he cannot give love and see a flourishing of the soul if we keep putting things out-of-sight out-of-mind. To only satisfy ourselves is being a spiritual cannibal who eats other people alive.
Outward success means little to God if the inward state of the church leadership and its members is a vacuous soul, bereft of the authentic spiritual connection of determining God’s intentions for a particular course of action. Sin is not something to simply be managed; it is to be put to death through the cross of Christ and applied to life through intentional spiritual practices meant to genuinely connect with God. To do less is to wander into a morass of consequences that damage people. So, let us do the work of soul care so that the church will thrive in the grace of God in Christ.