One of David’s greatest psalms is Psalm 51. He writes:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment…
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out my all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1–4, 9–12)
Could you write a psalm like this? Are you aware of your transgressions, your sins, your iniquities? Would you be able to talk to God about them? Do you know what God thinks of your sin?
This is a key aspect to faith in God, to Christianity. All of us get to live in God’s creation. You don’t have to be a Christian by any means. You don’t have to be a theist. You get to swim in the ocean and look at the stars and walk in the meadow no matter what. You don’t need God to live in this world. It is perhaps good for you to consider the Creator, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the creation.
That isn’t the case when we move the topic of our sin. When we consider the evil of the world, and then move into the evil of our own lives, then we start to have a bigger problem if we ever want to truly rectify the situation. We could try to improve ourselves. We can be better and do better, or at least we can make an attempt. We can evaluate the moral goodness of others. Or the badness. We can keep ourselves from the really bad stuff. We can say we’re sorry.
But we can’t be made right again. Not wholly. Not truly. Not really.
Not without God.
The great GenX writer Douglas Coupland writes about how great of a life he had growing ups a charmed, suburban kid. He calls it a life after God, a life of an earthly salvation, a golden life. He talks about this life without God, and how great it was. Except, like any thinking person, he has doubts. He feels broken. He questions the way his life has turned out, the choices he made to get there. He feels insecure. He’s lonely and often unfulfilled. He’s made narrow-minded compromises to get to the top, whatever and wherever the top is. He has these inner voices that he doesn’t know what to do with. At the end of all of this, Coupland confesses in this his psalm, “Now–here is my secret: I tell it to you with the openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
My secret is that I need God. I am sick, and I can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me.
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose to bring near, to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!
Bob Marley wrote and recorded the fantastic “Redemption Song.”
Old pirates, yes, they rob I, Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I From the bottomless pit
But my hand was made strong By the hand of the Almighty
We forward in this generation Triumphantly
Won’t you help to sing These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have Redemption songs Redemption songs
Let’s sing these redemption songs, these songs of freedom. Let’s sing of how we’ve been rescued from sin and slavery and death. I need God to save me. He didn’t only create the world. He also created me. And I have sinned, not just against others, but against God himself.