Sunday, September 11, 2016

Why we Need to Take Ownership of our Sins

Psalm 51:1-10 (NRSV): Taking Ownership
Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions. . . .
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.

I think of myself as a positive kind of guy, trying my imperfect best to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself. But my actions sometimes say the opposite. Just ask my wife; she knows me best. So I see myself one way, but my life tends to reflect the opposite. Why? What is it about my desire to be the best servant I can only to come up short in the quest, to violate the rules of love for my own pride and comfort? And when confronted with my selfishness, how do I handle it?
In Psalm 51, David offers his prayer of contrition to God, asking for his forgiveness and for a clean slate, so to speak, a clean heart. David admits his guilt regarding the murder of his friend and servant, Uriah the Hittite, and the adulterous relationship with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 12:1-15, God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David regarding his sin. Nathan’s story and prophecy reveal not only David's hidden sin but God’s care for David and, eventually, David’s contrition poured out in this beautiful Psalm of contrition, repentance, and forgiveness. In Psalm 51, David knows that God is a God of mercy: “According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (1). As the prophet Nathan points out in 2 Samuel 12:13, God forgives David. And although there is a steep price that David pays for his sins, God blesses David, his future family, and his kingdom. After all, when God comes to redeem the world through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, he uses the Davidic family line.
As depicted in the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, our ancestors ate the forbidden fruit, and through that submission to temptation fell from perfect unity with God. Ever since then, we humans have had a reputation for making mistakes. When our mistakes reflect a lack of charity toward God and others, we sin. In my experience, the difficulty is not so much in knowing humans are sinners but it in owning up my own personal mistakes. My pride gets in the way and justifies my rude, self-serving behavior as part of the conditions of the modern world. Admitting my sins is no easy task. But David, God’s anointed king of the Hebrew Scriptures, fesses up to his wrongs. He takes ownership of his mistakes, digs deep by showing true contrition, and then begs for and trusts in God’s mercy. David wants to push “restart” and become a better servant of God. David asks, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (10).
What lesson can I take away from David’s self-admission, contrition, and trust in God’s mercy? Well, I need to authentically own up to my weaknesses. When I make mistakes that violate the love of God and others, I need to recognize them for what they are. After this admission, moreover, I need to ask for and trust in God’s forgiveness (and mean it). Finally, I need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in me, making me a more loving, self-giving person.

I pray that as we go out to serve others this week, we think through the heart of David as he wrote the words of Psalm 51. We are all imperfect servants loved and forgiven by an awesome, merciful God.

Have a blessed week.