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Admitting Our Sin (Remembering Frederick Buechner, 1926-2022)
2 Samuel 12:13
Recall from my prior posts that God, through Nathan, told King David how disappointed he was with David’s behavior toward others, and that David would face consequences for his actions. Here is how David responds:
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. (2 Sam. 12:13)
David, in a most plain and honest way, admits he has sinned against God. He doesn’t defend his actions. He doesn’t place blame on others. He doesn’t beg for mercy. Remember, God and David go way back; he knows what God expects and he knows he’s fallen short. God has proclaimed that David will be punished, but he also assures him he will continue to live.
One of my favorite books, and one that I often give to others, is Frederick Buechner’s Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. Buechner, a Presbyterian minister and writer, died this week at the age of 96. I’ve been thinking about his writing, and his useful definitions of theological terms, which helped give voice to my own faith. Here is an excerpt from his definition of sin:
THE POWER OF SIN IS CENTRIFUGAL. When at work in a human life, it tends to push everything out toward the periphery. Bits and pieces go flying off until only the core is left. Eventually bits and pieces of the core itself go flying off until in the end nothing at all is left. "The wages of sin is death" is Saint Paul's way of saying the same thing.
Other people and (if you happen to believe in God) God or (if you happen not to) the world, society, nature—whatever you call the greater whole of which you're part—sin is whatever you do, or fail to do, that pushes them away, that widens the gap between you and them and also the gaps within your self.
In the context of our family and family business relationships, we sin against others when we behave in ways that “widen the gap” between us. Closing the gap – between us and others, with God, or within ourselves – requires, first and foremost, admitting that we have sinned.
Have you ever done something that has “widened the gap” between you and God, or between you and others in your family? How might an honest admission of your fault begin to restore the relationship?