David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.” 2 Samuel 24:10
Age alone is no guarantee of maturity or freedom from error.
It would be wonderful if I could announce that as we grow older we automatically grow up, or that the longer we walk with the Lord the more we are guaranteed immunity from sin. That is not the case, however. We will never be immune from sin’s appeal. Often those who fall the hardest are those who have walked with God the longest.
Not until we are “with the Lord” will we be what we ought to be. There is no such thing as outgrowing sin. We are never immune to its appeal. And when spiritual leaders fall, they usually take a host of innocent people with them.
In this strange story, David is an old man and because of his pride, he decides to number the people. Intuitively he must have known is was not what God wanted him to do. He is restless all night with the census report laying on his bed stand. Finally, he can’t take it anymore and he confesses to God in the middle of the night that he had done wrong. As a result of his folly, thousands of people perished as a consequence of his sin.
But David has said these words of confession before. When David was a middle-aged man, the prophet, Nathan, came to King David and confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent cover up. After hearing about the consequences of what his sin would cause,
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Samuel 12:13
But there is a major difference in the two confessions.
When he was a middle-aged man he said, “I have sinned …” after his pastor showed up and hit him pretty much over the head with a two-by-four.
Here as an old man, perhaps in his eighties, he says, “I have sinned …” before his pastor shows up.
David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. 2 Samuel 24:10
His pastor didn’t confront him; didn’t strike him and make him feel guilty. The law didn’t strike him. The consequences didn’t strike him. His heart struck him.
This is a man who has grown. He has grown in grace. A spiritually growing person is not someone who repents less and less, a spiritually mature person is somebody who repents more and more the longer they walk with God. And they do it more quickly, more genuinely, and more deeply.
One of my concerns as an older Christian who has a conservative bent, is that I have a tendency to be pretty opinionated and judgmental about the behavior of others. I sometimes find it difficult to admit that I am a judgmental person. I find it difficult to admit when I am wrong.
And what I fear is that in my conservative pre-disposition both theologically and politically is that I am insensitive to the gentle touch of the Holy Spirit when I am wrong.
Recently, my wife and I went on a date. We saw a movie and went to dinner and then to Lowes to buy window blinds for our house. The blinds needed to be cut to our specific window dimensions and so we needed some help. I asked a Lowe’s employee to help us.
She came to our aisle and answered our questions. She was clearly a woman but was more tomboyish than normal. She was very polite and helpful. When it came time to thank her for her assistance, I glanced at her name tag wanting to call her name as I said thank you.
Her name tag said, “John.”
I paused. I said thank you but couldn’t bring myself to call her name.
Now, there is much about gender confusion that I don’t understand. But here is my spiritual battle: Part of me felt a certain level of condemnation towards “John.” Part of me wanted to stop and tell him/her to stop behaving badly. But another impulse came to the surface of my soul that said, “Why don’t you silently pray for this broken person.”
Then the Holy Spirit thumped me on the back of my head and said, “Why don’t you just pray for this beautiful soul who is made in my image and leave the word “broken” off of your prayer?”
See, I am a judgmental person. I am a mess. I needed to repent.
We like to say all the time, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” How about we just love the sinner? Isn’t that what God did for us in Jesus? Jesus took care of all our brokenness on the cross. It is not my job to confront all brokenness in this world. It is my job to love everyone I see. My job is to repent and do the right thing.
A spiritually growing person is not someone who repents less and less, a spiritually mature person is somebody who repents more and more the longer they walk with God. We never get too old for complete repentance.
And so, dear friend, may you grow in your faith in such a way that you can feel the gentle prod of the nail-scarred-hand to hate your own sin and love all the sinners.
It is never too late to do the right thing.