7/27/2015 4:54:03 PM
The Sixth Commandment - July 26, 2015
Why are Christians so judgmental? You are all such hypocrites! Such accusations come up in all kinds of situations, but perhaps most commonly in the area of sixth commandment sins. Of course our natural reaction to such accusations is somewhat defensive, and perhaps rightly so in many cases. But at the same time, it’s a question worth examining and considering as we ponder what the sixth commandment teaches us about our lives.
“Are Christians judgmental” when it comes to sixth commandment sin? Is the stereotype from society accurate? And if it is in some cases, what should we do as God’s people to avoid it? Today, the Bible’s account of David and Bathsheba will help us answer those questions as we explore applications of the sixth commandment in our lives.
David, the second king of Israel, had enjoyed a long run of success. He had been anointed king at a very young age. He spent time serving in the army of Saul, his predecessor, where he became a hero for his defeat of Goliath, the mighty Philistine warrior, and the many military victories he won in the years after that. David’s military success continued after he took over the throne of Israel and led God’s people to be a military powerhouse in the region, expanding the territory of the nation to the largest size it ever achieved.
And that’s where today’s sermon text picks up the story: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained Jerusalem.” (1 Samuel 11:1 – NIV84).
And that’s the first somewhat odd sign – why was David at home? Kings in the ancient world almost always accompanied their armies in warfare. Perhaps David’s men were worried about his safety, or perhaps David was just tired or even feeling lazy.
In any case, the inactivity led to trouble. “One evening, David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Samuel 11:2-3 – NIV84). Not only was this women David was leering at not his wife, she was married to someone else. And not just anyone else either – other records show us that Uriah the Hittite was one of the best fighters in King David’s army!
But none of that was on David’s lust filled mind. “David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her…Then she went back home.” (2 Samuel 11:4 – NIV84). Perhaps to David it seemed like the perfect timing – David was at home while Uriah was away at war, but the whole sordid affair came to the natural conclusion: “The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” (2 Samuel 11:5 – NIV84).
And now there was an even bigger problem. Under the Israelite civil laws, breaking the sixth commandment was to be punished with death! Something had to be done to hide this terrible sin. “So David sent this word to Joab, “Send me Uriah and Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.” (2 Samuel 11:6-13 – NIV84).
David’s patience had run out – the situation was now desperate as Uriah’s loyalty to his career carried the day. “In the morning, David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote: “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” (2 Samuel 11:14-15 – NIV84). And with that order, the perfect crime was completed. “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.” (2 Samuel 11:26-27 – NIV84). So what can we learn from this sordid story, beyond an illustration of what breaking the sixth commandment looks like as it destroys the lives of several of God’s people?
Start with this. What is your reaction when you hear about these events? It’s appalling, isn’t it? Look at what David did! Look at how he covered it up! How could David do such a thing? Have you ever had that very same reaction when you look at the way things develop in our society today? How did you react when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage? What about when other Christians look at that merely as the next evolution of the religion? When family members or friends become involved in same-sex relationships? When one spouse cheats on the other and wrecks a marriage? When a young unmarried couple moves in together? When two teenagers go way too far. Do you find your anger rising up? How could they defy God like that?
Did you know that right after David committed these terrible atrocities described in today’s sermon text, he had that very same reaction – anger and outrage toward the sins of others? God’s prophet Nathan approaches David, sharing a story of a rich man who, rather than using his own wealth to entertain his guests, takes the only sheep from his poor neighbor. Total act of cruelty. And David is outraged, “How could that man! He ought to die!” And Nathan pointed out David’s hypocrisy: “David, you are that man.”
Thinking about what the sixth commandment really means in our lives protects us from the judgmental and hypocritical attitude we see in David – the same attitude that God’s people are accused of displaying today. How? Because the sixth commandment is about a lot more than public and obvious sins – and we tend to be really good at ignoring that fact.
Whether it is homosexuality, cheating spouses, young couples taking things just a little too far, eyes peering at internet websites in the dead of night, or even the wicked thought that flies quickly across the mind, God has no tolerance for any of it! It’s all sin, and it all deserves destruction in hell. Before we get to the “How could David!” and “How could those people out there,” we really need to say, “How could you?” and “How could I?” How could we do such wicked things? When we forget our own sin, the accusation of being judgmental and hypocritical becomes sadly accurate.
Often, hypocrisy is addressed with increased calls for “Tolerance” – a term that is tossed around all the time in our society. It’s a term that at times seems to have entirely lost its real meaning, so often is it misused. But really there’s no better word to describe the way that Jesus our Savior handled not only sixth commandment sins, but all sins – Christian Tolerance.
Think about it. Jesus came down to our world, and he put up with the sinfulness that was all around him – sinfulness that as the holy God, he hates. But he tolerated it so that he could perform his soul-saving mission. Instead of driving away sinful people with the judgment and harsh rebukes that were so rightly deserved, Jesus was patient. He patiently taught his disciples again and again what God’s will was – what sin looks like, the very real danger it presents before the holy God, and what he had come to do about it.
And then Jesus did it – he laid down his life on the cross to pay for all the times God’s will had been forsaken – to pay for all the times the people God created to be holy had polluted their bodies with sexual sin, to pay for all the times the people God created had polluted their minds with images of wickedness and filth, to pay for all the times that the people God created had fixated their minds on things that were anything but godly.
That’s the same truth Nathan shared with David. David said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” (2 Samuel 12:13-14 – NIV84). Jesus tolerated sinful people during his life and ministry so he would have time and opportunity to show them the truth and offer them forgiveness, and Jesus does the same thing today. Instead of destroying us as our sins would deserve, he patiently holds off on his judgment for a time, tolerates our sinfulness for now and invites us to put that sin aside, repent, and turn to him for forgiveness.
And perhaps that attitude of Christian tolerance – putting up with things we don’t like for the sake of sharing Jesus love and forgiveness – is the key piece in the practical side of this whole discussion. Think about the options: Do you want to be the Christian who jumps all over specific sins as soon as they are noticed, boldly speaking the truth but forgetting that the truth is to be proclaimed in love; the Christian who perhaps in many cases drives the sinful person away from any contact with Christianity so they end up in hell? Of course not.
On the other side of things, do you want to be the Christian who tolerates everything, just for the sake of keeping everyone happy, and they watches quietly from the sidelines as souls quietly and perhaps unknowingly go to hell in unrepentant sin? Of course not. So where is the middle ground? That’s a hard question, and one that is impossible to answer specifically in this setting because every situation and every person is different. But whatever the middle ground is, in most cases it probably involves some Christian Tolerance like Jesus showed – an equal balance of both truth and love, with the goal of leading that person to Jesus.
And may that attitude of Christian tolerance be our approach as we apply the sixth commandment in our lives and the lives of others. Whether it’s public statements on the internet, laws and legislation we might advocate for as citizens, or the way we treat people who struggle with sins that might not be a particular temptation to us personally, let’s show Christian tolerance. Let’s not hide the truth, but at the same time, let’s not forget about proclaiming it with love.
And what does it take to get to that point? Perhaps sometimes that means tolerating, for a while, behavior that we disapprove of, until we find the opportunity to have a loving conversation. Perhaps it will mean uncomfortable situations even in our public worship services – it’s hard to say what the future will hold.
But in the end, isn’t that what our Savior Jesus did? He could have come down hard, and justly so, on his disciples and all the other people he met for any number of things. But he didn’t. He waited. He patiently instructed them on all of God’s will waiting until they were ready, until they cried for help, as Peter did on one occasion when he saw his sin and said, “who then can be saved?” And then Jesus showed him the way, the truth and the life. May such patience, love and tolerance always be a part of our witness to the world we live in. Amen.