In the rite of confession—Confiteor—the admission of guilt is followed by the phrases, “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” In these words—mea culpa in Latin—the repentant sinner acknowledges responsibility for confessed sins. Today’s reading tells the story of a man who did not consider the victims of his most grievous fault and how his irresponsible self-idolatry crashed into others’ lives.
We can easily name the apparent casualties: Bathsheba and Uriah. A short list at first glance. But what about Bathsheba’s immediate family—her soldier father Eliam and her grandfather Ahithophel (one of David’s close advisers)? How about David’s trusted ally, General Joab, or the servants who first bring Bathsheba to David? Those who relay messages? The Thirty, Uriah’s elite warrior compatriots?
Think of the sins these persons add to David’s original transgression—their required complicity in this horrific crime. Consider how their loyalty to David tamps down their apprehensive consciences. Think how they are compelled to put their own good names on the line to cover the sexual abuse of this self-absorbed king—a self-righteous man who has no regard for the lives he is wounding.
This situation calls to mind how my self-idolatries may appear at first to have no consequences that tangibly harm others. In my skillful self-justification mode, how easily I overlook the lives I’m trampling on. How quickly I minimize or redefine as normal the hurt I’ve caused. How I even name the gathering results of my supposedly small-scale sins as something that could benefit unnamed others. My most grievous fault may resemble David’s: creating victims.
Truth-insistent Lord, lead me toward another mea culpa—naming the victims of my self-idolatry. Amen.
The Bible is filled with the stories of imperfect people. David is a classic case. In Second Samuel he commits adultery, tries to cover it up, and then plots a murder. How can this be the same man who penned this week’s psalm, which decries the foolishness of people who act in a godless way? Like us, David was a fallen person who needed God’s extravagant mercy. In Ephesians we read of this same extravagance given through Christ, whose power can do what we cannot—namely redeem all of us who are also foolish and fallen. The Gospel author demonstrates the power of Jesus through what he describes as “signs,” which Jesus performed not primarily to amaze the onlookers but rather to point them to his identity as the Son of God.
• Read 2 Samuel 11:1-15. How often do you consider the ramifications of your decisions and actions on the wider body?
• Read Psalm 14. How frequently do you find yourself envisioning a life free of constraints? What does that life look like?
• Read Ephesians 3:14-21. How does “being rooted and grounded in love” manifest itself in your life?
• Read John 6:1-21. When have you tried to force God into a mold of your own making to serve your needs?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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