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(Part 18)


January 29, 2016

Today’s readings:
2 Samuel 11:1-17
Psalm 51:3-11

What King David did was evil. He committed adultery and murder (2 Sm 11:4,15-17). He was lustful (2 Sm 11:2), abusive of his authority, deceptive and scheming (2 Sm 11:6-8,13,15), disloyal to his loyal soldiers. Yet when he asked God for mercy and repented of his sins, he was forgiven.

God is merciful. David looked hopefully to that. “Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Ps 51:3). He looked to cleansing, healing and restoration. “Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me.” (Ps 51:4).

But here it is. David repented. True repentance means a number of things.

  • First, he recognized his sin. “For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me.” (Ps 51:5).
  • Second, he recognized the gravity of transgressing God’s law. “Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes” (Ps 51:6a).
  • Third, he knows the righteousness and justice of God, that he stood rightly condemned. “So that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment.” (Ps 51:6b).
  • Fourth, he acknowledged the weakness of his flesh, the fallen human nature prone to sin, due to original sin. “Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps 51:7).
  • Fifth, he recognized that God wants sincere repentance, true repentance. “Behold, you desire true sincerity” (Ps 51:8a).
  • Sixth, he knows that God does not just insist on repenting just like that, but wants him to really know what he has done, how he has sinned, so that he can be helped to avoid such sin in the future. The world might say this or that is OK, but God shows the truth to the one who sincerely repents. “And secretly you teach me wisdom.” (Ps 51:8b).
  • Seventh, he desires not only to be forgiven, but to no longer sin and in fact to grow in holiness. “Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Ps 51:9).

While God’s mercy is always available to us, it is true repentance that allows us to experience the fullness of God’s mercy. And true mercy is an invitation to repentance. It is unlike the false mercy that is being peddled today even within our Church, where we do not speak about the person’s sin so as not to offend him, where we accommodate and accompany the sinner without trying to get him to go down the right path rather than continuing on the wrong one.

False mercy is the antithesis of true mercy. Looking at parallels to the seven points above, false mercy (1) does not recognize the sin, or if it is recognized, avoids speaking of it as sin, (2) does not look to the immutable laws of God but says that such can change depending on changing social values, (3) says that because of the mercy of God, one can be saved, even as he persists in his sin, (4) does not really consider sin and the inherent weakness of the flesh, and in fact condones and tolerates such sin, (5) does not require repentance or turning away from one’s sin, (6) does not really look to a person changing for the better, to know what is truly good and right and just, and (7) allows and abets the sinner’s persistence in his sin.

Only when we have true repentance can we confidently come before God and claim His mercy. “Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my iniquities.” (Ps 51:11). Only with true repentance can we be brought back to God, to experience the fullness of His love. Only then can we be lifted up from the mire. Only then can we be restored and renewed. Only then can we return to a life of joy. “You will let me hear gladness and joy; the bones you have crushed will rejoice.” (Ps 51:10).

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