With a background in youth ministry – that includes several summers at camp – I’ve got a fair bit of experience with waterfights. Normally, I start with quick attacks, intending to strike others with buckets or water balloons, and attempting to stay dry as long as possible. At a certain point, I give in: a waterfight normally ends with all of us being soaked, so if I accept that first, I can soak my intended target more quickly… and I simply use the kamikaze strategy: it doesn’t matter how wet I get so long as I take others down with me.
When I honestly think about it, it’s easy to treat sin the same way.When I go to confession, and I resolve to “sin no more, and avoid the near occasion of sin” – I want nothing to do with the stuff. But at a certain point, a particular sin I’m struggling with starts to look interesting, and it’s easy to flirt with it… but the “wetter” I get, the more likely I am to give in and stop caring about how stained my soul is going to get – after all, once you’re a little wet, what’s a good dousing?
If you’ve heard the story of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11-12, you hear a lesson about getting ‘soaked’ in sin, beginning with small compromises and leading to bigger and bigger sins. Watch how his lack of vigilance to getting wet with sin leads him to just abandon trying entirely.
David does not begin this story with the intent to commit adultery and murder. No, he starts out by being lazy. This is the time of year that kings are supposed to go to war: David stays home. (Sin #1.) Next, David finds himself bored – after all, his closest friends are all off fighting a war on his behalf – so David is walking on his palace roof and notices a beautiful woman having a bath. Instead of respecting her integrity as a person, he stares at her, and decides he wants her (Sin #2: this is not love, but David embracing lust.) So he sends for her (Sin #3: he chooses to sin), and gets her pregnant. Oh, and this woman happens to be Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah – one of David’s soldiers who is off at war.
This is the moment David has to own up for what he’s done. ”I screwed up, I was lazy, lustful, and I slept with my friend’s wife.” Instead, he decides to cover it up (Sins 4, 5, 6, and 7.) He brings Uriah home from war, hoping he’ll go home to his wife (4)… but Uriah’s honor won’t let him be with his wife while his fellow soldiers are in battle – if only David had shown that kind of honor! David gets him drunk and tries again (5.) When that doesn’t work, David sends him back to the war and arranges for him to be put in a dangerous place and left to die (6.) Then, he takes Bathsheba as his own wife, so it would look like he was doing a poor, pregnant widow a favor (7.)
From laziness to murder… once he was wet, it didn’t matter anymore. And the danger is similar for us. If we are taking our spiritual lives seriously, we need to look at these little sins – the ones we so easily rationalize away – and weed them out of our lives, so they don’t lead us to more serious sins, like they did for David. David didn’t stay home from war with the intent of impregnating his friends wife and then murdering him so he could take her as his own; he stayed home because he was lazy. His pride – his unwillingness to admit he fouled things up – would cost him dearly. Psalm 51 was written by a contrite David, who had now been called out by the prophet Nathan as being drenched in his own sin. Here’s the first few verses:
Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.
When I look at my own life and my own shortcomings, I can see how the bigger sins are usually the result of small ‘compromises’ – in some cases, moments where I’ve allowed myself to become just a little bit wet, and then been willing to risk getting soaked for just a little bit more. No young couple who are striving for chastity decide to throw their virginity out the window: they make small compromises. They kiss passionately just a little bit longer… they ‘fall asleep’ together on a couch… they put themselves in a situation where they might fall into sin. And then, they rationalize that it wasn’t their fault: they just couldn’t stop themselves. As it did with David, the cycle of sin began with a small compromise much earlier.
If you want to be holy – and we all should – we need to be honest with yourself about these little compromises, and weed them out of our lives. We need to resist sin, and flee from the near occasion of it: and stop rationalizing, stop compromising, and stop giving up simply because it’s hard. Anything worth doing is hard– especially holiness.