I have a balloon here. I just love balloons; they remind me of parties, of celebrations and of good times. I have been told not to touch this balloon as it is to be used for a special birthday, for someone special, but I love balloons. It’s here just asking to be blown up! Surely I should be able to blow it up. I enjoy balloons more than the person this is meant for anyway. No one will know or care if I were to bend the rules and blow it up for the birthday party. (start blowing it up, then as it gets bigger, walk among the people continuing to blow it up. The people will cringe and worry that it will burst. Finally, pop the balloon). Ask what they felt as I walked among them blowing up the balloon? Was it ‘my private fun, or did my actions have an affect upon them?
What I just did demonstrated the infancy, progression and final result of sin; it also demonstrated that there is no such thing as a private sin! The balloon represented the progression of David’s sin, from lust, to adultery with Bethsheba, to finally murder. Originally, this was a private affair, a secret and mutually consenting sexual fling, totally natural, rationally explainable; an act satisfying the needs of two lonely people; gratifying their felt need, harming no one.
David’s natural desire for a woman and Bethsheba’s willingness, bought out perhaps by desperate loneliness, excused, in their mind, God’s command to not do such a thing. Their felt needs became the catalyst to reinterpret the 6th commandment, ‘not to commit adultery’, in a way that excluded them.
As we witnessed with the balloon, which got bigger and bigger, affecting everyone, and then finally bursting, David’s sinful affair got bigger and bigger, until finally affecting a whole community. Bethsheba became pregnant, and David, wanting to ‘look good’ before God and others, tried to hide the affair by having her husband ‘accidently’ killed in battle. David’s affair had an effect the whole community.
Like an expanding balloon, the adulterous affair expanded its reach. First the commanders of Israel’s army were affected by being forced to put Uriah in the front line of the army. Secondly, Uriah was killed. Thirdly, Israel’s army were put in danger because their best fighting man was lost. The widening affects continued, with family and friends left to mourn Uriah’s death.
Sin, our re-orientating of God’s word to suit our felt needs, does not remain stagnate. Like ripples radiating out from a stone dropped into a pond, wave after wave of ramifications swamp innocent people, destroying lives, families, relationship and even churches, long after the act done; long after all appears to be normal. We all have something that tickles our fancy, floats our boat, and attracts our attention.
Something we know in our heart is wrong, know from the Ten Commandments is wrong, yet because it feels right, because it fits comfortably with our wishes, suits our inner hopes and desires, we use them as a catalyst and excuse to re-interpret God’s commands against such things, in a way that suits our needs.
We are not just talking about the so called ‘big sins’, like adulatory, or murder, and let’s face it, you and I know that we are not likely to go and suddenly kill someone. However, the same destructive forces that ripple through whole communities and separate us from God, when there is a murder or adultery, are at play even in our smallest desires. Envy, jealousy and lust, or bitterness and anger, are only inner feelings, but we use them as a catalyst to re-interpret God’s word to suit our needs and then act on them, destroying our relationship with God and others around us; just as Adam and Eve did, believing that “Surely God did not say?”
We excuse ourselves of sin by saying “If God created our feelings and they form our natural behaviour, then we must be the ultimate guide to what is right and wrong.” Sadly, even our smallest feelings and desires are tainted with sin and do not give a true indication of God’s will for us. Acting on feelings and desires contrary to what we read and know of God’s will, is sin, and as with David, sin has an ever increasing affect on our relationship with God and with others.
The rippling affects on the community continue because behind our re-interpretation of God’s law stands an angry God, who condemns sin and commands that his law, which protects relationships, be kept, and who clearly warns ‘for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.’ David experienced firsthand the result of an angry God, as Nathan announces “You are the man!… the son born to you will die.” God, in righteous anger, put a stop to the ripples of sin by calling David and Bethsheba to account; he popped their balloon! The word of God pricked David’s conscience, deflating his ego by pointing out that his feelings and felt needs are not the measure for interpreting God’s word, or the guide to building good relationships. It was his sinful nature that had led him astray, and what he had done had broken the relationship between him and God.
The Lord did not bring an end to David’s sin out of spite or revenge, but revealed his sin in order to restore David back into a proper relationship with him and the Israelite community through the cleansing of repentance and forgiveness. When his sin was publically found out, announced through the prophet Nathan, David soon realized that first of all his sin offended God and had broken his relationship with him; David confesses “I have sinned against the LORD.” Only once this vertical relationship was restored, between David and God, could the horizontal relationships between David and the community begin to be restored. Only through the vertical and horizontal plains of the ‘cross’ can true healing begin.
He also calls us also to account, not out of malice or nastiness, but as a servant king, offering to firstly restore the vertical relationship between him and us, then to rebuild the horizontal relationships with each other; cleanse our lives through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. It is only through the way of the ‘cross’ that true relationships are forged. God first pops our balloon, sometimes by allowing our actions to become public, so that we can acknowledge that God is king and that our feelings are not. Only then, like with David, can confess that Jesus is Lord and saviour who washes us clean, and only then, by the grace given to us, can we do the same, restoring the horizontal relationships through confessing our sin and mutual forgiveness. God, the servant king begins with us through the cross, washing us clean, as Isaiah foretold ‘by his wounds we are healed’. Then he calls us to do the same ‘washing’ with each other.
Jesus demonstrated the washing and restoration he gives and calls for, achieved by him through the cross, when he washed the disciple’s feet. There, he humbled himself, as he would soon do on the cross, and washed the dirty feet of the disciples; people who had no idea they needed washing. They were embarrassed to have their ‘dirtiness’ revealed to all, and they were ashamed that Jesus, their master, needed to wash them. Some even protested saying “you shall never wash my feet.”
Determined to clean; determined to demonstrate how his blood, soon to be poured out on the cross, will wash us of sin, determined bring restoration on the vertical plain, Jesus said “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Only once the vertical relationship between us and God is restored through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, can we have a true heart to confess our sins, and bring restoration to the community; it is only through the relationship restoring cross do the ripples of sin change into ripples of love, joy, peace and forgiveness.
The relief and comfort that comes thorough Jesus’ washing is expressed by David in Psalm 32 “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long…Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The same relief is expressed to Jesus by the sinful woman when she poured out her appreciation for the grace she received with tears and expensive oil. Jesus washed her clean, saying ‘your sins are forgiven’, their relationship was restored; she then began to ‘love much’. Restoration of relationships begins at the cross of Christ, from there, with ever increasing ripples of grace, we too love much. Amen