A Lesson in Forgiveness

Text: 2 Samuel 11:26—12:14
Date: Pentecost IV + Proper 6C + 6/12/16

Have you ever said, “I can forgive, but I can’t forget”? Many think that receiving forgiveness is easy but extending forgiveness to someone else is more difficult. Today’s “Lesson in Forgiveness” turns that around. Both the Pharisees in today’s Gospel (Luke 7:36—8:3) but especially King David in our Old Testament reading demonstrate that receiving forgiveness maybe isn’t always as easy as you might think. With a parable Jesus enlightened the Pharisees and Nathan the prophet broke through the hard shell of guilt bringing King David to true repentance and faith.

The apostle James describes how sin takes us down when he writes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). This describes perfectly David’s sin. That is as if to say that you rarely break only one commandment, but one leads to another until you’ve broken all of them as we confess when we say, “we have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.” King David’s fall demonstrates how breaking the Sixth Commandment led him to violate the Tenth Commandment, then the Eighth Commandment and ultimately the Fifth Commandment. That is, it was his lust for the woman, Bathsheba, that made him covet her for himself, committing adultery, then plotting how to lie about it, manipulating her husband Uriah and everyone else leading to Uriah’s death, actually murder.

Now, it’s so easy to read this seminal story too quickly. You see when our text says that, Bathsheba “became his wife and bore him a son,” that means that David had nearly three-quarters of a year to convince himself that he had successfully hidden his sinful deeds. They say “time heals all wounds” but it is also true that time can harden the heart and sear the conscience into false security.

Today the Word calls us to stop and evaluate our conscience, to truly address our motives and find out if we have been playing a game with the forgiveness of our sins, whether our conscience has been “seared,” deceived, or altered from the truth.

It is because of his hardness of heart and imagining that he had successfully covered up his sin that it took nothing less than a prophetic confrontation to awaken him. Nathan the prophet told a simple story, seemingly unrelated to anything. It almost sounds like a contemporary speech we hear these days from politicians so easily pitting rich against poor. The rich man takes advantage of the poor man. At the end of the story David is so enraged that he says, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” And he was right! David spoke in accordance with the Law of Restitution in scripture (Exodus 21) and, we might add, the Law he himself was so unaware that he had violated.

Then four words of Law. That’s all it took. The application of the story and of David’s word of condemnation coming out of his own mouth boomeranged with Nathan’s word, “You are the man!”

Today we have “a prophetic confrontation to awaken” us! Now we cannot, obviously, get specific with each individual. But sin works the same destruction, damage and ruin to every sinner. It is bad enough that we violate the Ten Commandments. That’s the basis and issue that stands in the way of all people of every time and nation, of every ethnicity or philosophy of having any relationship at all with the one true God; the God of our creation; the God of our ultimate judgment; the God whose love reaches out to us even in our rebellion and sin to save us. Why? Because He loves us. He still loves us! He still loves you!

It is not love to allow someone, anyone, our children or relatives or neighbors or anyone to just keep going on in their sin and rebellion, their ways of destruction of relationships and society without speaking a word of correction, a word of saving judgment, a word of Law. This is the most difficult thing that confronts us today as God’s Church to speak words of warning, of judgment and then of grace to our society as confused as it is. But how can we speak that word so that they will hear it?

“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.” A story. A parable. “Usually a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.” Call it “deceptive” but it is a way to get under the skin, under the resistance to bring awakening, enlightenment, and thus repentance and faith.

David discovered true repentance. We prayed some of his own words today in Psalm 32. “Day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sins.” More specifically it was in the words of Psalm 51 that David revealed his repentance and faith, saying, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions,” my transgressions of lust, of covetousness, of adultery, of lying, even of murder! “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:1-3). Boy! Was it ever!

The rest of David’s prayer in Psalm 51 is a better conclusion to this sermon. But let us today allow God’s holy word of Law, first, to convict us of our sin and guilt, which is an ever present reality as long as we are in this flesh. Let us allow it to convict us in order that, like David, we may daily come to true repentance, that is, contrition and sorrow over our sin, that we may daily come to true repentance and faith: faith in the amazing grace of God, the God who loves us, the God who loves you enough to “go out of His way” to tell you a story. Yet not just a parable or fictitious story. Rather, the story, the account of a very real Savior who loved you and gave himself for you, gave himself into death for you, so that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9), because confession and faith is all about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ your Lord.

Today discover anew and be reassured of the forgiveness of all your sin, no matter how unworthy you may think yourself to be.