“Have mercy on me, O God,according to your unfailing love;according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:1-7
When I was 18, a friend and I decided to go roller blading at a park that was near our college campus. I had never been roller blading before, so I borrowed a pair of blades from my roommate, and we headed off for an afternoon of fun and adventure. After a quick lesson in balance and control, we headed down a paved walking trail. For the first hour or more everything was fine. The trail seemed very level and smooth, and I felt I had a good handle on the sport. We were laughing and joking; not paying attention to where we were going or what dangers might lay ahead of us.
Before we knew it, we were standing on top of a rather large and steep hill. Because we hadn’t been paying attention to were we were going, neither of us noticed that we were gradually ascending a hill. In reality, it had been such a gradual climb we both missed the fact that in order to get back to where we started, we were going to have to make a descent at some point.
As we’re standing on the crest of this hill looking down to the bottom, my first inclination was to turn around and follow the trail back to our vehicle – that was the safe and sure route. However, my friend had other ideas. So, with a mischievous smile on his face, he pushed off and headed down this enormous hill. Not wanting to be outdone by a boy, I gritted my teeth and followed suit.
About half way down the hill, one of my blades hit a pebble on the pavement and it stopped dead. I however, had so much momentum built up at that point, my body kept on going and I landed on my face and proceeded to slide the rest of the way down the hill, end over end. By the time I made it to the bottom, both of my knees, my hands and my elbows were completely covered in road rash. My knees were so torn up that blood was oozing down my legs and into the roller blades, and I could see small pebbles and bits of asphalt embedded in the wounds. Fortunately for me, I had managed to keep my face off the pavement, however every other part of my body was bruised and bloodied.
As my friend and I hobbled back to our vehicle, I was kicking myself for not following my instinct. If I had only listened to that little voice in my head that was screaming “this isn’t a good idea” I wouldn’t be in excruciating agony. Back on campus, the nurse doctored my wounds – scrubbing the grit out of my knees and elbows, and applied salve and antiseptic ointment. The pain was horrible, and for weeks afterward I walked around with hideous bruises and enormous, ugly scabs.
Eventually, the cuts healed and the road rash vanished, but it left very distinctive scars – especially on my knees, which took the brunt of my fall. To this day I only have to look at my knees to be reminded of my stupidity and the pain that was caused by my choice that fateful day.
In the same way, sin scars our soul. In 2 Samuel 12, David (the man after God’s own heart) is confronted with his sins, through the words of the prophet Nathan. Even while Nathan is speaking to him, David’s heart is torn wide open in grief and humiliation before God, as the sheer ugliness and reality of his sin with Bathsheba is finally revealed. David’s heart is completely shattered, his integrity has been ripped from him and crushed before all the people of Israel, and the web of deceit he wove to hide his sin is completely exposed to the world. As David falls to his knees, a broken and vulnerable man, he cries out to God Psalm 51, which we know as one of the most open and honest prayers in the Bible.
From that time on, David’s life was changed; but he always carried with him the scars of his sin. Sin always has consequences – and we do not get to choose which consequences those are. As an answer to David’s heart wrenching prayer in Psalm 51, God purged David of his sin, but it required a blood sacrifice – a blood sacrifice that had to come from both sinners – his son – the very product of his lustful and adulterous relationship with Bathsheba.
Scars are ugly, but we often learn something from them. In my case, I learned not to go roller blading on an unknown trail without protective gear. I also learned to pay more attention to that little voice in my head that is often screaming out good advise. Hopefully you can see David learned some pretty tough lessons too.
Sin is only a destroyer – nothing good comes from it. Every where it touches us it leaves hurt, destruction, and death. Only Christ can heal those hurts, and his mercy can repair the wake of devastation that marks our lives. It’s only through the cross that we can have power over sin and death.