February 19, 2009
by Patrick Lafferty
Against You, You only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be justified in Your words
and blameless in Your judgment.
There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.
So intones Baba, an alternately brusque and gentle father, to his son, Amir, in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Seizing upon a teachable moment, Baba identifies what he believes to be the common thread running through all human offenses. And who can quibble with his wisdom?
King David finds another commonality to every sin, and an even more profound one: every sin is ultimately directed against the Lord, Himself. In the lament for his sin involving Bathsheba, David acknowledges, “Against You, You only, have I sinned”—his pathos leading him to repeat the identity of the One he’s offended. But how can the Lord alone be the target of his treachery? Was not Bathsheba seduced? Joab compromised? Uriah murdered? Uriah’s wife deprived? Nathan deceived? How can David see the Lord as the “victim” of his designs?
None would argue that David excluded from his remorse what he’d done to those others. But beneath every evil committed against them lay an outright mistrust of the Lord’s goodness and provision. That was the sin that began every other one of David’s sins. It was a replication of the very first sin of biting on the serpent’s equivocation, “Did God actually say. . . ?” (Genesis 3:1). Whether in seduction, or conspiracy, or murder, or deception, David made himself his god by completely dismissing the promises of Him who really was his God. For that his remorse overflowed, because in that sense every sin was a variation of mistrust in the Lord.
So every sin has the Lord in its sights. While that may be of some theological importance, is it necessary to establish that truth whenever I sin? Must we probe the underbelly of our offenses, as David did, to recognize their true grievousness?
For two reasons we must.
Seeing all our sin as directed against the Lord brings us to the root issue of our struggle with sin. Can we really own up to the harm we do to another person without recognizing Who they belong to—that they are made in the image of God? A simple “I’m sorry” doesn’t get to the root of the issue until the belief that led us to act in this harmful way is seen as a mistaken belief about God. If I really believed Him to be good and sufficient, I wouldn’t have acted in this way to get myself a kind of satisfaction that was false and fleeting. The cycle of harm can be broken when at last I recognize the harm I do is a clenched-fisted arrogance toward my heavenly Father—a refusal to believe He is enough.
When we dig more deeply into the motivation for our sin we find something more than mere weakness in us. We find wickedness. Therein lies the second reason for scouring our souls as David did.
Seeing all our sin as directed against the Lord leads us to the proper solution for our sin. David began to grasp the depth of his wickedness when he saw the true Object of his offense. Then also he saw his only hope as being in the steadfast love of God whom he had offended. Seeing the depth of his offense helped him see the even deeper love of God in His willingness to restore unto David “the joy of His salvation.” As Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, David “mourned” his “poverty of spirit” before God, and then was made humble and “meek” in receiving God’s grace to restore him to favor. God alone was his solution to his offense.
I cannot grasp the fullness of the Cross of Jesus unless I see my earthly sins as having a heavenly trajectory. For I do not understand Jesus adequately unless I see that what He came to do was more than to atone for my offenses—He also came to restore true, loving fellowship between me and my Father whose love is steadfast. He shines His searing light upon our sin not merely to expose its reality to us, but to reveal even more brilliantly His willingness to die for our sin, so that we would know Him as loving and just! We’re left with no one but Jesus when we, like Eli, discover: “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:25). In which circumstance can we be more confident of another’s love: in their willingness to flatter us or their willingness to forgive us? “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
If David’s precedent must become ours, then any strife in a relationship that remains within your power to address is a sin against God. Any love withheld on the basis of self-interest is a sin against God. Though it may be arduous, consider the true Object of your offenses as you confess them today or this Sunday. In that is our hope of getting to both the root issue and solution for our sin.