By Richard J. Boone
After thirteen months of a bitter political battle, the impeachment hearings against our nation’s President ended with his recent acquittal. Though conducted on the political stage, it reflects the ongoing moral war. There are moral issues — serious moral issues — involved. Setting aside political preferences and views, several personal lessons can be gleaned from this national disgrace.
Our Sin Will Find Us Out
In January 1998, the President flatly denied the alleged relationship with intern Lewinsky. I confidently believe he felt no one would ever learn the details of the matter. How wrong he was!
Moses, in Numbers 32:23, reminded the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, if they failed to help their brethren settle Canaan west of Jordan, “be sure your sin will find you out.” How true that is! Our sins are fully known to God. “All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). Even our private sins are: “You have set our iniquities before You; our secret sins in the light of Your countenance” (Ps. 90:8; italics mine, rjb).
Sinful dispositions are manifested by our actions (Mark 7:20-23; cf. Prov. 4:23; 23:7). Sins against others become known (Matt. 18:15-17). Sometimes sin becomes known by the consequences it brings (Josh. 7:1-5, 19-21, 25). Rest assured that when we sin, it will become known — some- how, in some way.
Leadership Demands Godly Character and Morality
We have frequently heard: “Moral character doesn’t matter; what one does in private is no one else’s business as long as it doesn’t affect job performance.” Too many people have exchanged the truth for this lie (Rom. 1:25). Leadership which is not faithful in little things (private conduct) will fail in greater responsibilities (Luke 16:10; also Matt. 25:21; Luke 19:17). God has always required godly character and morality, especially from those in positions of leadership.
Kings of the Israelites were to have a copy of the law with them for reading, humility and fearful obedience, all of which would prolong their reign as king (Deut. 17:18- 20). The judges whom Jethro suggested to Moses were to be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Exod. 18:21). Why? So they might competently learn the law and render just verdicts in cases between Israelites. Within the church, elders and deacons are to be men of proven godliness and morality, especially needed in light of their serious responsibilities (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1:6ff; 1 Pet. 5:2-3). These examples sufficiently show that a key to effective leadership is godly morality and character; anything less is evil leaven.
Throughout this ordeal we have been served a variety of apologies in differing tones and settings, so many, in fact, that one could question the apologist’s sincerity. The subject of genuine repentance enters the picture. So does a pertinent text — 2 Corinthians 7:6-11. This text addresses both the motivations and actions of genuine repentance.
2 Corinthians 7:10 mentions “godly sorrow” and “the sorrow of the world.” What is the difference? There is an obvious difference in that godly sorrow “produces repentance to salvation,” but the worldly sorrow “produce death.” The key term is “godly.” Sorrow towards God for sins committed is the realization of sin being an offense primarily against God, and it causes a change of mind leading to a change of actions; one ceases the sinful activity. Though he did not sin with Potiphar ’s wife, Joseph’s mindset toward sin was right: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9; italics mine, rjb). Godly sorrow entails a similar perspective.
Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, thinks primarily about worldly motives and consequences. It is little concerned with spiritual considerations, if at all. It has been accurately stated that godly sorrow is sorrow that one has done wrong, while worldly sorrow is sorrow for getting caught doing wrong.
Godly sorrow leads to genuine repentance as reflected in the Corinthians’ change of heart and conduct. They had tolerated an impenitent fornicator (1 Cor. 5). Paul told them to purge this leaven from among them (v. 7). This punishment was meted by a majority of them, causing the impenitent brother to repent (2 Cor. 2:6-7). Of their repentance Paul said, “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves clear in this matter” (v. 11). Godly sorrow produces this genuine repentance. Worldly sorrow acts differently.
Worldly sorrow seeks to delay, not diligently settle matters; to conceal wrongdoing, not clear it; its indignation is toward those who seek to resolve matters, not at self for sin; no fear of consequences; vehement desire, not to correct self, but to destroy accusers; zeal to protect self and status, not to cease sin; no vindication of self, but vindictiveness towards others; persuading others to try to clear you, rather than proving one’s self clear in a matter. Surely these contrasts are familiar to us in light of recent events.
Temporal Consequences Of Sin
Sin is the “Great Separator” — it separates man from God (Isa. 59:1-2). David understood this after all the events pertaining to Bathsheba and Uriah. Until he confessed his sins, he felt the weight of those spiritual consequences in his life (see Psalms 32 and 51).
David also learned that sin has temporal consequences, a fact which society often fails to realize or acknowledge. They may be small or great, immediate or delayed, individual and/or group-wide.
Nathan told David the consequences of his sins (2 Sam. 12:7-15). David had “despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight” (vv. 9, 10). Therefore he would: (1) have violence in his family’s future (v. 10); (2) experience insurrection from among his own family (v. 11a); (3) be humiliated by having his wives publicly violated (vv. 11b-12); (4) give great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (v. 14); and (5) cause innocent people to suffer (v. 14b). Anyone familiar with David’s life and subsequent chapters in 2 Samuel can document the fulfillment of each of these foretold consequences. Though David was forgiven spiritually (Ps. 32:1-5; 51; 2 Sam. 12:13), there were still temporal consequences to his sins.
Today people may commit grave sins and be forgiven, but still have to face temporal consequences of those sins. A murderer can be forgiven by God, but still receives civil punishment. An alcoholic (or drug addict) mother can be forgiven, but an innocent baby suffers the consequences of fetal-alcohol syndrome (or “crack baby”). A thief can be forgiven, but still pays restitution. A person in an un- lawful marriage can be forgiven of that adulterous relationship, but must leave it for repentance to come to fruition. In all of these cases and numerous others, one can be forgiven when they meet God’s terms of forgiveness, but may have temporal consequences of sin.
We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. Whenever a society allows sin to run rampant in the streets and fails to uphold righteousness and justice, then it is a reproach to that nation (Prov. 14:34). Many Americans are rightfully embarrassed about the reprehensible conduct of our President and his cohorts. It is a national disgrace. There are, however, important moral principles underlying these events. We must be sure to grasp and apply them because they are right and for posterity’s sake.
We can — by God’s power (Eph. 1:19-20) and longsuffering (2 Pet. 3:9) — affect a return to righteous- ness in our country through plain Bible teaching and consistent Christian living. God was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten righteous souls (Gen. 18:32). Maybe he will spare America, too.