The effects of sin, forgiven or not, are far-reaching
There is a misconception that many in the church seem to hold today; a misconception regarding sin and its consequences.
Because we know God freely forgives all who ask him, many who profess to be Christ-followers get a little sloppy in their day-to-day living. People have actually said to me, "Pastor, I know what I am doing is wrong, but I need to go ahead and do this and later I'll come back and ask God for forgiveness."
In the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel we read of King David's affair with Bathsheba and his subsequent actions to cover it up. After a year of cover-up, the Prophet Nathan comes to David and confronts him. David's busted. He admits his sin, and receives God's forgiveness. But even though he is forgiven, his sin affects the rest of his forgiven life.
"Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'
"This is what the Lord says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'
"Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' Nathan replied, 'The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.'" (2 Samuel 12:9-14, NIV84)
We have this mistaken idea that because God freely forgives all of our sins, we get a free pass, we get off scot-free. Not true. David was fully and freely forgiven. I expect to meet David in Heaven some day; but even though David was fully and freely forgiven in God's Government, in God's economy there was still a terrible price to pay.
David lived the rest of his life as a forgiven man with the consequences of the sin he was forgiven of. Look at it yourself in 2 Samuel 12-20; I dare you. If you do, I don't think you'll take sin as lightly as you once did. Many a believer lives their life with the sad consequences of forgiven sin.
David's actions teach us something else. Our sins are never just personal sins -- others are affected by it, others are broken by it and others often end up paying the consequences of the sin we thought was nobody else's business.
David's whole family was affected by his sin. Yours will be, too. I make that last statement not as a prophet, but as a preacher who has years of observation under his belt. Those sins we thought touched no one else, harmed no other human being, or were done by two consenting adults affect far more than just the one or two involved.
A number of years ago now, a couple in a church had an affair. When they were discovered, they were angry that the church was getting involved in their private business. Angrily, they informed the pastor that what they had done only involved them.
The pastor, at that point, produced an appointment book of 79 counseling appointments that he had just kept because of a sin these two thought was "just between them." Like a rock thrown into a pond, the entry point may have the biggest splash, but the ripples that rock produces on the water can be far-reaching.
Never take sin lightly. Yes, you can be forgiven, but you may live the rest of your life with the sad consequence of forgiven sin.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit www.gatewaycommunity.org.