When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes: What the Bible Says about Repentance
by Betty Miller
An editorial to prompt us to pray and repent…
He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13
As the White House saga of the past months continues to unfold before a tired and bewildered public, the concept of moral responsibility in the United States becomes increasingly blurred. While many in leadership are outraged by the *President’s affair, and subsequent lie to the American people in January of 1998, much of the American public is saying that they are satisfied with the President’s confession and still consider him to be an excellent leader.
The Righteousness of the King
While it may seem generous and big-hearted for the American people to overlook the transgressions of the President, and while it may be true that he can still fulfill other duties of his office well, there is a deeper issue at stake that far transcends his affairs, or even his lies. It is the delusion that there should be no real consequences between choosing right or wrong.
If the President’s “apology” on August 17, 1998 was enough to satisfy most Americans, I can’t help but wonder if such a feeble concept of “repentance” is also what eases their own consciences. Granted, the President has recently made more of a sincere effort to repent, most notably at a prayer breakfast on the morning of September 11. I pray that his words were spoken from the heart. However, this is not a political commentary, as much as it a call for the people of the United States to examine what repentance really means.
God judges nations not only for sins committed by the leaders, but how the public reacts to those sins. It is true that we are called to forgive. Christians should be the most forgiving people on Earth because we know the full extent of forgiveness that the Lord has offered to us. We must forgive because the Lord has forgiven us. The greatest tragedy in the world today is that multitudes cannot receive His mercy because of their pride and unwillingness to humble themselves. Forgiveness is free, but only to those who are contrite. For those who want absolution but refuse to repent, forgiveness cannot be bought at any price.
How little we know of what it means to repent. “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” is only a slogan yelled by wild-eyed sidewalk preachers of questionable theological background. We think it means just walking down a church aisle somewhere or muttering a “sinner’s prayer” under our breath.
There have been other great leaders throughout history who had affairs and still managed to serve their nation well. A notable example is King David of Israel who repented before God with all of his heart when his sin was exposed. Although he was truly contrite, he still paid a price for his sin. Read Psalm 51; his prayer to God and a hymn for all those poor in spirit. God is eager to forgive all who are truly repentant. Though we still may reap the penalty of our sin, God will work it for good.
Saul, the King immediately preceding David also disobeyed the Lord, but when his actions were exposed by the prophet Samuel, his first reaction was self-preservation. “I have sinned,” he said to the prophet. “But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel” (1 Samuel 15:30). He admitted that he had sinned, but his motives were only to save his own reputation and position of power.
God was so displeased by Saul’s drive to be admired by the multitudes that He took the Kingdom of Israel from him. Though Saul continued to reign for many more years, he was not led or empowered by the Spirit of God, and spent the rest of his life in insecurity and misery. How different his destiny could have been if he had only feared God more than man!
One may feel sorrow over sin, but that doesn’t necessarily equate with repentance. How do we tell the difference? Here is the acid test: Those who are truly repentant will not care if they lose the respect of the entire world, as long as they make it right with God. They are glad that their sin was exposed so that it might be dealt with. Instead of scrambling to justify themselves, cover it up or attack the accuser, they will throw themselves on the mercy of God. They will be thankful to the instrument that exposed their sin, even if it caused them pain. They will also be willing to make restoration to those they have hurt.
At the other end of the spectrum, is a shift-the-blame mentality. Our talk shows overflow with it and our public schools teach it. Sin is referred to at worst, as a “dysfunction” and at best as a “lifestyle choice.”
Yet, even in this the Church is much to blame. In our eagerness to “save” people, how many people have we “led to the Lord” without teaching them what it means to repent? How many churches have we filled with people who have never shed one anguished tear over their sins, and are offended at the concept? Have we forgotten to preach that our forgiveness, which we receive so lightly, was purchased by Jesus Christ, through an agonizing and lonely death on the cross?
If we truly care about our President and this nation, we will humble ourselves before the Lord and ask Him to shine His searchlight on our own hearts. If I could talk to the President, I would encourage him to speak the truth, and to weep and mourn now rather than later. We may not like the thought, but every single one of us who are Christians will weep and mourn for our sins one day— whether in this lifetime, or before the Judgement Seat of Christ. It is simply unavoidable. It is better to be ashamed now, rather than later. Better to be humiliated in our own eyes before God, than to be humiliated in front of multitudes when our unrepentant hearts are exposed.
I cannot speak to the President in person, but perhaps I can do even better by praying that he will soften his heart to God and comes to this realization himself. Perhaps, if he truly repents, his humility will light fires of revival across the land. I pray that even now, he will step out of his carefully constructed house of cards and into the reality of the knowledge of a God who hears the testimony of blood shed on the ground and sees deceit of those who are wise in their own eyes. My prayer is not just for him. It is for myself, and for all who inhabit this country that I love.
I ask God not so much that He will have mercy on us—for He has already shown us surpassing mercy in the sacrifice of His son—but that we will have the ears to hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to us and the courage to obey Him. His abundant compassion is available to us fresh and new every day. God is still offering rest for our souls. May we humble ourselves in true repentance so we can receive it!
* President Clinton
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