My pastor almost preached a really good sermon on forgiveness. He started by laying out our need for forgiveness. Then he assured us of God’s willingness to bestow it. And then he stopped. If ever there was a time for a three-point sermon, this was it. Because, contrary to what David wrote in Psalm 51:4, there is more to the equation than just the sinner and God.
As those who read their Bibles know, David poured his heart out to God in Psalm 51 after being confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his sins of adultery and murder. He wrote, “Against you, you only have I sinned…” But hold on.
What about Bathsheba? Bathsheba was married to a great guy. I doubt she entered David’s bed willingly. Because of David, she no doubt suffered guilt in addition to the agonizing loss of a husband and a child.
What about their infant son? “The son born to you will die.” If ever there was an innocent victim of someone else’s sin…
What about Uriah? If you know the whole story, you know that Uriah was a classy guy. He wasn’t just a random soldier, he was one of David’s elite “Mighty Men”. Twice he refused to enjoy the comforts of his wife while his fellow soldiers were on the battlefield. David wrote a letter to Joab ordering Uriah’s death in order to cover up his sin. Uriah was so classy that he carried the letter back to Joab without once peeking into the envelope.
What about the peripheral soldiers who were killed along with Uriah in the cover up? What about the wives, children, brothers, sisters, parents, friends and fellow soldiers who mourned them?
What about Joab, David’s right hand man on the battlefield? He was the general in David’s absence. I imagine he loved his men. Can you imagine the guilt he carried for needlessly putting them in harm’s way?
What about Ahithophel (Bathsheba’s grandpa and one of David’s counselors)? (2 Samuel 11:3, 2 Samuel 23:34, 2 Samuel 15:12,) Did he know David raped his granddaughter and killed her husband, or did he only feel the betrayal in his spirit?
When it comes to forgiveness, no one has hit the nail on the head like Josh McDowell in his book, More Than a Carpenter. His illustration has stuck with me through many years:
“… let’s say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home. I’m a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, “Don’t cry, honey. Daddy loves you and forgives you.” Now usually the person I tell that story to says, “Well, that’s what God ought to do.” Then I ask the question, “Who pays for the lamp?” (p.156)
That’s why my pastor’s sermon left me unsatisfied. It is wonderful to rejoice in God’s forgiveness, but God is not the only one who pays for the lamp.
I get why my pastor stopped short: God’s forgiveness makes us feel good. It is nice and tidy. The price has already been paid, after all, and He is huge and powerful enough to absorb it. The only time we come face to face with the itemized invoice is once a year on Good Friday.
Human forgiveness is messier. And easily distorted. We delay forgiveness until we think the offender has paid enough. And that completely misses the point. It is the forgiver who pays for the offense, not the offender. That is what makes forgiveness so powerful. And that is why Jesus tied it to love (Luke 7:44-47). The innocent party pays.
If we truly understood that, I wonder whether we would be so quick to take the high cost of forgiveness lightly.
I recently heard that 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography. As my pastor was winding down his two-point sermon, I looked around the auditorium. Statistically, 50% of the married women in the room are paying for the forgiveness their addicted husbands enjoy. God paid 100% of the spiritual cost, those wives are paying 100% of the physical cost. God sees them rolled up on the floor in a fetal position because they discovered their husbands were googling, “how to get around Covenant Eyes” at 2 am. He sees the toll it is taking on their physical health, the clumps of hair in their hands when they shampoo. He knows the temptation some of them face in their desire to feel attractive again.
I wish my pastor had mentioned them. I wish he had reminded their husbands who all is paying for the lamp. I wish he had acknowledged the earthly price they pay. Forgiveness is holy ground. It is beautiful and costly and powerful. It deserves a three-point sermon.
© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014