Isn’t it true that we can be less than forthright when confessing our sins to those we’ve sinned against? We’ve been known to say things like, “I guess that wasn’t the best choice to make” or “I can see why you are angry because of what I said” or “I’m sorry that you are offended”. What do these responses have in common? They are examples of failing to own our sin, call it what it is, and flat-out say “I was wrong… period”. Our confessions and apologies can often be weak and evasive, and although the persons we confess to may walk away pleased that we acknowledged our wrongdoing, the truth is we held back for the purpose of saving face and protecting our pride.
We don’t just do this with people, however, we do it with God too. When we confess our sins to God, at times, we will speak of them in much lighter terms – calling anger “frustration” or fornication “fooling around’ – and then there are some sins we are conscious of that we will leave out all together. As if God doesn’t know the extent of our atrocities against him, right? This is not the example David leaves for us in Psalm 51. As he confesses his sinfulness to the Lord (this Psalm was written in repentance of his adultery and murder), we read statements such as “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (v. 4). When was the last time you called your sin “evil”? He goes on to emphasize his sin by admitting, “I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5). He confesses that he has been sinful from the very beginning of his existence in his mother’s womb. Then in verse 14 he pleads with God, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness”. David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed. He did not do the deed himself, but he ensured it would happen. So he could have said, “God, it probably wasn’t right, but at least I didn’t actually plunge the sword into his heart myself”, but instead, he chose to call his sin what it was.
How could David be so open and frank about the depth and severity of his sin? How was he able to expose the gross reality of his heart so willingly? Because he knew in God he would find mercy. In verse one he prays, “Have mercy on me… according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy.” When there is mercy to be had, there is no reason to soft-petal our sin. In fact, to limit our confessions is to miss out on more of the blessing that comes when God removes the burden of guilt and restores the joy of our relationship with him. Church, because Jesus lived, died and rose again for us, every single one of our sins is forgiven, so we are free to bare our souls before God without holding anything back, being assured that he will draw us near to himself and give us the grace we need to change.