There is the perception by more than a few folks that the Church is filled with holier-than-thou types who want to preach about everyone else’s issues and not face up to their own. To some extent this is deserved. But a lot of it is an easy way of dismissing an uncomfortable viewpoint that we’re all less than perfect and we’re responsible for that imperfection. I’m glad God causes me to own up to these facts. It helps humble me. It reminds me that I need to lean on God and to rely on His mercy and grace. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I get a free pass because of God’s mercy and grace. I know I deserve His wrath. But God, in His great love, forgives and restores. That’s mind-blowing. That’s unreal.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.
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.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
– Psalm 51:9-13, NASB
David was in the midst of facing up to his sins. His heart had been broken when God used Nathan to reveal David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, his subsequent deceit of it all, and his murder of Uriah. David went to God and asks Him to not look upon David’s sins, but to remove them. And in their place David asked God to restore Him to a man with a steadfast spirit (a singular focus on God), one who would remain in God’s presence and one who would find joy in his salvation and a desire to be God’s servant. Right after David asks for all of that, notice what else he says. When we quote from Psalm 51, we often stop at verse 12, which ends with “a willing spirit.” We don’t include verse 13, which is about witnessing. It’s about sharing.
David realized something important. As a sinner, he knew what it was like to be in the midst of his sin, coming face-to-face with the consequences of it. There were repercussions in David’s life. He lost the baby. He would never build the temple. And his house would be full of strife the rest of his days. But what pained David more was the possibility of being apart from God. David feared not being able to come into God’s presence. David got it. He knew being a sinner who realized his state was a horrible place to be. And that’s why verse 13 is there. If it was horrible for him, it would be horrible for anyone. But David knew there was hope. David knew that in the Lord there was grace and mercy. That was the only one out of that state. And as God restored him, David would be sure others knew of that out. He would ensure they knew about a loving God who provided that way out.
As Christians we have had to face up to our own sinfulness. Hopefully we have examined ourselves and considered soberly the consequences of our sins. We should get it just like David did. Being apart from God, stuck in our sin, is horrible. The consequences in eternity are almost unthinkable, but focusing just on the here and now, we need Jesus each moment of each day. Once we understand the reality of our sin, facing up to the fact that our actions have separated us from our Creator, our loving God, we should be responding like David did, asking for restoration and renewal. That’s something we all should have experienced in our Christian walk. We are going to mess up. Thankfully, God is there to help us clean up as He restores us.
So when it comes to those who are not of the faith, we should understand and sympathize with their state. Yelling and screaming at someone who isn’t a Christian that they are a horrible, evil person isn’t right. Scripture makes it clear that we are ALL horrible, evil people (“There is none righteous. No, not one”). But there is a way out. Instead of beating folks over the head about their sin, a better approach might be to open up and reveal we’ve been there, too. In fact, we struggle with sin daily. That’s reality. But we have a loving, gracious, and merciful God who forgives and restores, who encourages and builds, who teaches and leads. He is our hope and our salvation. And while we struggle with sin now, in eternity we won’t. Our history, our testimony, our own salvation is the message we should be delivering. It tells the truth. It reveals we’ve been there, too. It presents the hope that we have. And it glorifies God. The message of our own conversion and our struggles will teach transgressors God’s ways and lead to sinners being converted to Christ. So let us speak that message and go against the holier-than-thou characterization the world has of us.