The Best Way to Respond to Sin

In 2005 New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi apologized. That much we know. What, exactly, he apologized for is unknown. Here’s just a snippet of what he said:

"There's been a lot of distraction, definitely, over the last year, and I'm sorry for that, I really am.”(1)

Marc Bruneke (CC)

You see, Giambi's grand jury testimony in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) investigation had been leaked and published in the San Francisco Chronicle just a couple of months earlier. In the testimony, Giambi had allegedly admitted to injecting himself with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.

But since none of this information was official or even supposed to be public, he couldn’t or didn’t want to say what he was sorry for. Admitting to the drug use would give the Yankees the opportunity to void his $80 million contract.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2007.

By this time the steroid scandals were full blown. Seemingly all the greats were suspect: Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and let’s not forget Barry Bonds. Almost all of them denied the reports they had used performance enhancing drugs. What did Giambi do? He apologized. Again. “I was wrong for doing that stuff,” he said.(2)

What happened after that?

The public forgave him or, at least, forgot about him. When you hear the name Jason Giambi in the same sentence as guys like McGuire and Bonds, who do you find most favorable? I was a pretty big baseball fan back then, and I had all but forgotten Giambi even used steroids. But how could anyone forget Palmeiro or Bonds wagging their muscular fingers at the cameras, the politicians, and the judges, denying they ever touched the stuff? 

One Thing We Can All Learn from God’s Beloved

Studying the life of King David left me confused. How could such a messed up individual be so favored by God? His very name means beloved.

David got a lot of things right: Goliath slaying, Psalm writing, and loyalty to Saul even when the king tried to kill him.

But then there’s the dark side: the adulterous, murderous, polygamist, absentee father, prideful census-taker side.

Despite all of these things, David is often held up as the gold standard of human beings: cherished by God, revered by men. Why? The more I think about the issue the more I think I’ve figured it out.

Every time David did one of these boneheaded things and was confronted about them by Nathan or someone else, he repented. He humbled himself, pleaded for forgiveness, and turned from the sin.

Contrast that with his predecessor Saul who arguably committed lesser sins (prior to losing favor with God and going crazy, of course). When confronted by Samuel about his unlawful sacrifice, Saul tried to justify himself:

When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed … I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering. (1 Sam. 13:11, 12 NKJV).

And how did Saul respond after illicitly plundering the Amalekites?

But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal. (1 Sam. 15:20-21)

See what he did there? First he argued, claiming he did obey (even though he clearly did not). Then he blamed others for taking the plunder even though he was anointed their leader. He pulled an Adam, blaming Eve for giving him the fruit rather than accepting responsibility for his sin. Eventually Saul did apologize and admit his sin, but the apology came only after his justifications.

Both of these instances show Saul had too much pride to admit he was wrong. So he was ultimately deposed, dethroned, and defeated.

And this pattern followed for many other kings: the otherwise good king Asa became prideful late in life, whereas the bad king Ahab repented, and God acknowledged his humility, forestalling the promised disaster until after Ahab’s death.

As for Giambi? You might say Jason Giambi only apologized because he got caught. And you’re probably right. But assuming a position of contrition is better than alternatives like justification, pride, or dishonesty.

We all commit stupid errors in life, exercise poor judgment, and give in to our flesh. What God wants from you in those instances is contrition, not justifications or coverups. He won’t work with pride, but will heal a humble heart.

King David expressed humility, something that pleased the heart of God. And David also loved God’s Law. I’ve put together a 90-day reading plan designed to help you read through the Old Testament. The guide moves chronologically, only highlighting the most crucial chapters. No genealogies or mold regulations. Interested? You can grab your free copy today. Just tell me where to send it:

David was far from perfect, but he loved God and expressed true contrition when confronted with his mistakes. May we all do the same.

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