Earlier today, I posted a video adapted from the 51st Psalm with the simple descriptor reading “A morning prayer.” As I went to the kitchen to rinse out my orange juice cup, I wondered, “Oh great, I bet people are now going to wonder if and how I royally screwed up recently.”
Psalm 51 is a beautiful prayer of confession. It is one of my favorite passages in scripture. It was also, for a long time, my nuclear option when praying for forgiveness. The “little” sins in my life typically evoked a typically sincere, but not very thoughtful “God, forgive me for my sins.” But if I lied to my parents or looked at porn on the internet, I would read the 51st Psalm in an intense whisper as if my life depended on it.
We talk about sin quite a bit in church. He’s a sinner, she’s a sinner, I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, that dog would be a sinner if he had a sense of self. We recognize the reality of sin in our lives. We acknowledge our need for forgiveness and redemption from Jesus. Yet I do not think we typically think about the gravity of our everyday disobedience.
We know that sin separates us from God, but typically live in the fashion that it is only the “big” ones that do the real damage. You know, the drugs, sex, and other things that make for the kind of high-drama testimony for which lifelong church kids typically covet.
But we don’t think about coveting, gossiping, refusing to love our neighbor, not making the sacrifice to do good for someone. Those things drag us away from God too. Sure it happens inch by inch instead of the miles one is pulled away when they use their drug smuggling money to party with hookers. But it’s a little more obvious for the hooker-partying drug smuggler that something is amiss also. They may choose not to do anything about it, but it’s more obvious.
The “little” stuff is more difficult. A little step here and a little step there can take someone a long way from home before they realize it. That’s fairly serious. That’s why I’m learning that Psalm 51 is always appropriate.
A last few words because I think we trip up ourselves when we talk about sin sometimes. The beautiful thing in Psalm 51 is a prelude to restoration. I said that we talk about sin frequently in church. Some people mistake sin’s gravity for the heart of the message. They talk about how we’re worthless and how God hates us if we are not forgiven through Christ. I find that hatred hard to believe when the Bible tells us God loves us so much that Jesus was sent to earth for us. Some can become so obsessed with the gravity of sin that they get bogged down in the morass of their failure.
I am not talking about those things. I am simply talking about how all sin can take us further from God, but that there are ways forward through God. Psalm 51 is a great way forward. It doesn’t have to be the nuclear option.