Excerpts from Chapter 7
The Surgeon, the Scalpel,
and the Spouse in Sin
Spiritual Surgery for Sinners
“It happened, late one afternoon . . .” So begins the account in the book of 2 Samuel. It is the story of a most despicable series of acts—adultery, deception, and murder, made all the more shocking because it was committed by the greatest and most honorable king in the entire history of Israel.
David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), took extraordinary risks first to indulge and then to disguise his adultery with Bathsheba. Upon learning that she was pregnant by him, David brought her husband home from war in an effort to publicly justify the pregnancy. When that failed, David perverted his authority to the extreme by arranging for the man to be killed in battle. To tie up the package, David then made Bathsheba one of his wives.
A year passed, Bathsheba’s child was an infant, and judgment for David’s sin was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he thought he had hidden his wickedness, fooling nearly everyone. Maybe even God. Problem over—close call. Shielded by the trappings of power, he could feel safe, protected, and raised above the mere laws of men by his own cunning, power, and exalted position.
But David and all he cherished were on a collision course with God’s justice. Ascending the palace steps was his old friend, the prophet Nathan. And this wasn’t a social call. It was a rescue mission.
Nathan stood before a man he loved but hardly recognized, a king deceived and drifting perilously toward destruction. The prophet took no joy in the sharp words forming in his mind. He had no way to predict how David would respond to his rebuke. But when someone close to you is running from the truth, love demands that you speak. Sometimes love must risk peace for the sake of truth. David was about to be loved in one of the hardest possible ways. And he didn’t even have to leave the house.
Nathan told David the story of a rich man who had taken a poor man’s only sheep to feed some guests. Infuriated by this injustice, David announced that such a man deserved to die. Nathan’s timeless reproof was, “You are the man.”
The Need for a Nathan
There are two amazing dynamics at work in this historical snapshot. First, God pursues sinners. God’s love is relentless. Even when we are blinded by sin, he refuses to let go. God pursued David with a tireless love.
Second, God uses sinners to pursue sinners. Nathan, like David, was a man prone to the same temptations and failures as David. But God had given Nathan a ministry in that moment. He was a sinner called to help another sinner become reconciled to God.
Nathan’s role in David’s restoration foreshadows something very significant about the gospel. Jesus, God’s Son, would later come to confront our sin. Through his sacrifice on the cross, he has put our sin away and reconciled us to God (Romans 5:10). But also, as we have been learning, those granted a Savior are called to imitate their Savior. So far in this book we have begun to learn how to imitate Christ in mercy and forgiveness. Here, we will begin to learn about biblical confrontation and reproof for the purpose of reconciliation.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. It is reconciliation between a sinner and God, and between a sinner and the one(s) sinned against. This is a ministry not only to God’s enemies for their salvation, but—our focus in this chapter—to God’s sin-struggling children for their ongoing growth and relationship to him. To whomever we may be ministering reconciliation, God literally makes his appeals through us (1 Corinthians 5:17-21).
In addition, James informs us that we are to be peacemakers for the sake of righteousness (James 3:18). That is, we must be willing to use relational ties to intervene and help our brothers and sisters walk in a manner worthy of their calling. Charles Spurgeon drives this point home. “Our love ought to follow the love of God in one point, namely, in always seeking to produce reconciliation. It was to this end that God sent his Son.”
Aren’t you glad Nathan had enough courage to deliver truth to a king in the grip of “sin and spin”? We may not undermine kingdoms by our sin, but the effect of unrepentant sin harms ourselves, families, relationships, churches, businesses, ministries, and careers in often devastating ways. Over time, even “moral misdemeanors” and sins that may seem petty compared to David’s can do deep damage. We all need a Nathan. We all need someone who can discern a slow drift or a rapid freefall from God, look us in the eye, and say, “You are the one.”
It’s inevitable. In navigating through a fallen world with a sinful heart, from time to time your spouse will experience a pattern of sin that extinguishes joy and saps the soul, revealing dangerous corrosion in one’s character or relationship with God. Perhaps, just like David, your spouse will even be locked in denial and doing everything possible to hide the truth. Such sin cannot, must not go unaddressed.
Look around. Who can play the Nathan role for your spouse? Who will take on the ministry of reconciliation? This needs to be someone appointed by God, close enough to see, and humble enough to be concerned more about God’s righteousness than about people’s opinions. There’s really only one likely candidate: You.
What will you do in those times when truth is absolutely necessary? What will you do when your spouse needs a Nathan?
Read an excerpt from Chapter 8