GUILT OUTLASTS LUST

Guilt Outlasts Lust

It was a glorious spring afternoon when he saw her. He was relaxing on the roof of the palace. He’d had a tough but successful road to become the leader of the nation, and now he was taking some time out. Probably in his early 50s, King David was tantalized by the beauty of a young woman bathing on a nearby rooftop. But she was the wife of one of his army officers. ‘It would only be a one-night affair,’ he thought. ‘Her husband is away. No-one will know.’

But things went wrong: Bathsheba became pregnant. A scandal was inevitable. He tried to cover it up. He called Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, back to the city. For three days he entertained him, urging him to have a night with his wife. But Uriah refused while his army was still fighting.

So David adopted an unscrupulous plan. He had Uriah put at the center of a major battle and left to fight alone and die. It worked. Uriah died and David married Bathsheba. Like the eye-surgeon in Woody Allen’s Crime’s and Misdemeanors, he had apparently committed the perfect crime. But David had made a mistake. In his lust he had forgotten God.

We live in a self-absorbed society, intent on pursuing its own interests, ignoring the reality of God. Not that this is new. Writing in his Letter to the Romans (1:28-32), Paul the Apostle said:

‘Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.’

Foolishness

As Paul points out earlier in Romans 1, we have the evidence all around us that there is a creator God. We have also the evidence of history – the life of a unique man, Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, we have the evidence of our own conscience that we are guilty before a holy God. Deep down we don’t agree with the implied conclusions of Woody Allen’s, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point – that there is no God to whom we are all accountable.

It is the ultimate foolishness to ignore God. Psalm 49:13-14 (worth reading the whole psalm) says:

Such is the fate of the foolhardy, the end of those who are pleased with their lot.
Like sheep they are appointed for death;…
But God will ransom my soul from the power of death, for he will receive me.

Forgiveness

Three millennia ago, King David of Israel understood these things. He knew the guilt within him was neither socially conditioned nor a psychological hang-up. He knew that he had offended God: You are justified, God, in your judgment, for against you alone, have I sinned… And, when he turned to God in an honest confession from his heart (Ps.51:7), he could say: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

We have now this assurance: God in Christ not only pardons our sin when we turn to him and confess it, he also delivers us from its consequences. Guilt outlasts lust, but God’s offer of forgiveness to the truly repentant trumps all.