Over the past few weeks, Mark Sanford has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. First, he was missing...then, his adulterous relationship was exposed. It was followed by a public apology and Sanford's assertion that his adultery is really a "love story". Mark Sanford is in a load of trouble, not least because he doesn't actually see the error of his ways. He needs to be concerned, not for his political career but for the state of his soul and the well-being of his family...but that's really not the point of this blog post.
Instead, let's discuss what has caught the attention of many - the substance of his apology where he invoked Christian "language" and compared himself to King David.
“I remain committed to rebuilding the trust that has been committed to me over the next 18 months, and it is my hope that I am able to follow the example set by David in the Bible — who after his fall from grace humbly refocused on the work at hand. By doing so, I will ultimately better serve in every area of my life, and I am committed to doing so.”
The editors of New York Times noted this in a commentary entitled God and Mark Sanford. They asked five "experts" including Chuck Colson and LaShawn Barber to comment on Mark Sanford's confession/apology. It's worth checking out the different points of view.
But I found one of the most unintentionally insightful comments to come from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who does not subscribe to the Christian faith. Here's what he said -
"The paradox of American evangelicals is that they are Christian on the one hand and political conservatives on the other with utterly opposing views of redemption. Christians believe that no one is blameless and all must therefore ride the coattails of a perfect being into heaven. But conservatives espouse the gospel of personal accountability. The state cannot save them. Man must earn his bread by the sweat of his brow and not by welfare alone."
It's an interesting comment because I think many Christians actually subscribe to this "gospel of personal responsibility". We may erroneously believe that if we own up to our mistakes, put accountability controls in place and try harder next time, we'll be ok. In other words, when it comes to our moral state, we might think that personal accountability can save us....but it cannot. To be sure, accountability is good thing - taking responsibility for our moral failings is foundational to true repentance. And, being accountable to others is wise.
But what we really need is a Savior, not just accountability and earnest confession. Our moral failings are first and foremost against God and apart from the person of Jesus Christ, we have no means of relating to a holy God. True repentance must be directed to Him and it must rest of what Christ has done on our behalf by bearing our sins.
Our weaknesses are greater than can be addressed by personal accountability or accountability groups. We need a Savior every single day to protect and keep us. That's why I love these words from the hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" -
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
The real gospel doesn't just feature sin and personal responsibility, it highlights a Savior who has come to save and keep us. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.