There but for the grace of God go I

From time to time a news story reveals the alleged misbehaviour of a well-known person. What has previously been personal and private is in the headlines and people have views about it, often negative. The pressure on all involved is very great and the long-term consequences may be very serious. Reputations and careers are destroyed, and the family of the person involved are deeply affected. Whatever genuine good a person may have done is permanently devalued. Their alleged sin becomes the defining factor in who they are. It’s no wonder that those involved suffer from mental health problems.

The Bible reminds us that we are all guilty of committing sins. It declares, “there is no one righteous, not even one.” We sin every day and think very little about it. When our conscience convicts us about our ungodly behaviour we may promise to change and to do better, but inevitably fail. Our problem is inward, we have a sinful nature, a bias towards doing things that are wrong. The internet has made many temptations so easy to succumb to in the privacy of our own homes. Online pornography is regularly accessed by many men. Online relationships often have a sexual element.

When we sin, God has provided a way to experience his forgiveness. King David was described as “a man after God’s own heart” but he succumbed to the temptation to sleep with another man’s wife. When he realized she was pregnant David was desperate to cover his sin. He arranged for her husband, one of his most faithful soldiers, to be put in a place in battle where he was killed. It was a very dark chapter in David’s life. When God forced him to face up to his sin David repented and asked God to forgive him. In Psalm 51 David wrote, “Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.” God heard David’s prayer and forgave him.

When other people sins are revealed, there is a real danger that we become hypocrites. The religious leaders once brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery. They said the law of Moses decreed she should be stoned to death and asked Jesus if he agreed. Jesus said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They all went away. Then Jesus told the woman he did not condemn her and that she was free to go and leave her life of sin.

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