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August 2, 2009

Speaking the Truth in Love

Last week we looked at the story of David and Bathsheba and that often ignored subject of sin.

I suggested that we all sin – why?

“Because we can?

Because we are bored?

Because it serves our purpose at the moment.

Because everyone else does it and it is really pretty much accepted.

Because we think we are independent

And responsible for only ourselves.

Because we think we accomplish what we do by our own ability

And for our own use.

Because pride and power goes to our head.

Because really, who is going to know anyway?”


But sin is not the end of our story, just as it was not the end of David’s.


In this morning’s reading David receives a visit from his friend Nathan. Nathan proceeds to share a parable about two men, one rich and one very poor. The rich man had many flocks and sheep and goats and herds. The poor man had only one lamb which he dearly cherished treated like a member of the family. But when the rich man had a guest arrive he stole the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for dinner. David blew his stack at the account. “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserved to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”


At that point all Nathan had to say was “David, you are the man.”


Sometimes telling the truth can be risky. It takes courage because it can result in hurt feelings, broken relationships, bruised egos or even broken bodies. Nathan had the courage to approach David and speak the truth. David needed to hear what Nathan had to say but not just anyone can say that to a King. Yet, if a person as good and strong and faithful as David can sink into the depths of sin that led him to adultery and deception and murder, what is to prevent us from self-deception as well?


Self-deception occurs when people who are committed to certain values act against those values while convincing themselves that they are doing nothing wrong. Self-deception lurks in denials, rationalizations, cover-ups, justifications, excuses, attributions of blame and evasions of responsibility.


We see it in the person with an eating disorder who denies there is a problem, the alcoholic who insists drinking is simply a way to relax after a hard day at the office, the pastor who blames the congregation, not her preaching, when members sleep in the pews.

(April 29, 1987 The Christian CENTURY On Honesty and Self-Deception: 'You Are the Man'



Self-deception is a defensive maneuver. It allows us to do things we know at some level we should not be doing and then it allows us to blame someone or something else for our own behavior. In the end, our self-deception is our attempt to deceive God. When we believe we are something we are not, when we convince ourselves that we have done all that God requires, then we are lying not only to ourselves but to God.


As a faithful friend and servant Nathan was determined not to let David ruin his life and his relationship with God. So Nathan reminded David of his core values, his faith, his basic beliefs

and how he had acted against them.


Where are our Nathans? Nathan risked his life approaching the king as he did. Who has the courage to be that honest with us? To point out our failures to be honest with ourselves? To speak to us, even at personal risk? People who love us so much they are willing to risk losing the relationship in order to restore our relationship with God. I think those folks are few and far between.


We know folks who stand on principle. When things aren’t right they are compelled to speak out. They don’t worry about feelings as much as they worry about ideals. They have conviction, which is good and we need that, but unchecked that honesty can lead to hardness of heart,

fanaticism, and hateful attacks.


We also know folks who are big on love and encouragement. They empathize and sympathize, and commiserate. They are less concerned with standards and more concerned with acceptance. They have a gift for seeing the essential oneness of humanity and that is very good, we need that. But such compassion, left unchecked can lead to sloppy soft-headedness

that simply accepts the wrongs that need to be challenged.


Most of us lean to one side or the other and only through wisdom and experience can we learn to balance the love and the truth in a way that pleases God. When we look at Nathan we see that balance. He was committed to David and even more so to God. His communication was built on relationship. The purpose was not to condemn or attack David but for his lasting good.

He was convinced that David’s faith was more important than his power. Being a child of God was more significant than being the King of Israel. Nathan approached David in humility and friendship, not arrogance or finger pointing. He had grace in his heart so that he could speak with grace.


This is a great story about awful sin and awesome redemption. We read these stories because sometimes we can see ourselves in them and learn. Not always, not in every story, but sometimes. And when we hear one of these stories and we recognize ourselves, it just may be the voice of God saying, “You are the one.” “You are the man.” “You are the woman.”



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