What is the first law of holes? If you are in one, stop digging!. That same shovel that created the hole can be used to fill it but it might be good if you first changed location. The fact that you would be buried if the shovel were used by someone else is a witness to the fact that undoing our mistakes is always our own work to do. That is not to say that we can’t get help. In fact, community is one of God’s gifts to us to help us grow toward being the person God has created each of us to be. For David, that community came to him in the form of a brave prophet named Nathan.
Nathan was charged by God to perform an ultimate task of speaking truth to power: tell the king that he has sinned. Many a prophet would lose his head over such a task…literally! But Nathan is as wise as he is brave and knows that used incorrectly any tool can be a weapon, so instead of hitting David up side the head with the truth of the law, he instead hands David a shovel to dig his own hole. Once accomplished, David is wise enough to repent, allowing God’s mercy to rescue him from the pit.
We aren’t always fortunate enough to have community that is so brave or wise. Sometimes it is the community that is the source of the problem. God seems to have propensity for allowing us to have what we ask for, even after we’ve been warned. Heck, that is how ancient Israel got the kingship in the first place. They saw the other nations having kings and whined long enough to get their own, even though that meant rejecting God as their ruler and replacing God’s restorative justice with the king’s version of justice which is pretty much summed up by “it’s good to be king.” We may not have individual kings lording power over us today, but we surely all have been subject at one time or another to the tyranny of the group-think of an echo chamber. Even in the presumably safe confines of a church lady knitting circle, those knitting needles can become swords when biases are repeated and behaviors justified. It is in those moments when we most need to stop digging.
When you are walking down the wrong road, you don’t make progress by continuing to walk. True progress is made by repenting – literally meaning to turn around – and heading back toward the right road. Choose wisely your direction and always resist the tempation to use the tool of the law as a weapon.
Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of Old South UCC in Kirtland, Ohio, where Darkwood Brew is used as a tool for ministry as church beyond walls. He has a YouTube channel called Bible Bytes, short video commentaries on the scripture lesson for the week.