Our world seems to become more corrupt day by day. The temptation to accept the ethics of the business world can seem hard to resist. We all want to be successful in what we do, and the pressure to conform to society’s attitudes and way of living may at times seem overwhelming. The Internet offers enticing opportunities to sin in the privacy of our homes. God has told us to be as wise as serpents and “as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16, New International Version).
Because of our fallen human nature, we see the sins in the lives of others, but not our own sins. We are more apt to ask, “What can I do about a sinning fellow Christian?” than to ask, “What can I do about the sin in my life?”
King David knew that he had sinned against God, but he refused to face his sin until the prophet Nathan confronted him. In 2 Samuel 12 Nathan accused David of committing adultery and murder. How did David respond? Did he order Nathan’s execution? Did he make excuses for his behavior? Did he say, “I’m the king, so I’m above God’s law?”
What can we learn from David’s example? If we are caught in sin and confronted by others, what should we do?
We Must Admit the Truth
David accepted responsibility for his actions and sincerely repented. We must confess that we have sinned against God. The Holy Spirit is faithful to convict us and to give us opportunities to repent, if we will heed His urging. But when we admit our wrong, we must make a full and sincere confession. If we confess only what we believe others already know and we hide the extent of our failure, we are not being completely honest with God, with ourselves, and with others. When the whole truth finally does come out, our previous confession will be disregarded and we will have no credibility left.
We Must Prepare for the Consequences and Make Restitution
The innocent also suffer when we sin. The people we love and care about the most may suffer greatly because of our wrongdoing. We must empathize with those whom we have hurt and demonstrate that we are truly sorry for the pain we have caused them. If possible, we should make restitution. We must seek God’s help and guidance to nurture our relationship with family members, and we must allow them time to heal. If others outside our family have been affected by our sin, we must work to maintain our relationships with them.
We Must Accept God’s Judgment and His Mercy
David beseeched God to spare the life of his infant son (2 Sam 12:15-17). However, when God took his son’s life, David arose, washed and anointed himself, and worshipped God. He accepted God’s verdict. However, he also accepted God’s mercy. If we refuse to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness, we are putting ourselves above God and His Word. We are saying that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was not enough to cleanse us from our sins and that His mercy is unacceptable to us.
We Must Recognize That All Have Sinned
As believers, we must recognize that we have all sinned. John says that if we say that we have no sin, we are deluding ourselves. Christians often lean toward one of two extremes: we become too lenient toward sin, or we treat the fallen Christian too severely by denying the possibility of repentance or by ignoring the person’s repentance. Sooner or later we all sin; therefore, we must prepare ourselves in advance so that we will take the appropriate action of confessing our sin and repenting of it when we first realize that we have displeased God in thought, word, or deed (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-6).
We Must Get Back to Living for the Lord
After we have repented and accepted God’s forgiveness, we must return to living for the Lord. The apostle Paul never forgot the mercy and forgiveness God had extended to him, “the worst of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15-16, NIV). We must realize our vulnerability and diligently seek God’s help to strengthen us, to make us aware of possible pitfalls, and to guide us in our decisions.