Jerry Shirley tells a story about a King who visited a slave ship. There was a slave galley where they chained prisoners to the oars and made them row.
The King decided to go below the deck and talk to those who were chained to the oars. And he asked one man, “Why are you here?”
“Oh,” he said, “Sire, I don’t know why I’m here. I was in a crowd when a crime was committed and when they arrested everybody, they got me, but I’m innocent!”
He asked another, “Why are you here?”
“Oh, sire, noble King, I have enemies who have lied about me, but I’m not really guilty. I’m the victim of false witnesses.”
As the King went through the galley each one had some reason why he was innocent and should not be there. Finally he came to one man, who said, “Sire, I’m here because I deserve to be here. I’ve sinned. I’m guilty, I’m receiving the just recompense for my sin. I’ve sinned against my God, I’ve sinned against my King and now I’m paying the penalty for my sin.”
When the King heard the prisoner’s confession, he stepped back and exclaimed, “You rascal! You scum! What are you doing here among so many honest men? Guards, release him and get him out of here.”
This story reminds me of our text today that has often been the source of controversy and confusion, but actually contains some simple truths and wonderful promises regarding sin and salvation.
(1) God wants us to walk in the light.
Jesus is the light. When we’re in a right relationship with Christ we’re walking in the light, We have fellowship with the Father, the Son, and of course, other Christians. Walking in the light is to walk worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1). To walk in love (Eph. 5:2). And to walk carefully, not carelessly (Eph. 5:15) Walking in the light is where there’s cleansing for my sins.
(2) However, we all have sinned.
Every accountable human being on earth has committed sin. Either by sins of omission or commission. Indeed, “there is none righteous, no, not one.” Sin is the common challenge of humankind regardless of race, economic condition, social status, or religious affiliation.
(3) To deny our sins is to deceive ourselves and become dishonest.
Too many, like those in the story of the slaves, tend to make excuses, shift blame, and refuse personal responsibility. God holds each of us accountable for attitudes and actions regardless of the circumstances surrounding our sins.
(4) Confession is the only answer.
When all the excuses are exhausted and honest examination ensues, we will have to simply say, like King David, “I have sinned.” It’s painful. Sometimes embarrassing. Definitely humbling. But, it’s the only correct course of action.
(5) The King will forgive us.
Christ is a compassionate King. He is gracious and merciful. He is loving and kind. He is faithful and forgiving. He is not interested in humiliating us. Hurting us. Or brow-beating us over our sins.
The result is wonderful. When we realize our sins, admit our sins, confess our sins, and receive forgiveness of our sins, we will enjoy spiritual cleansing. Now the burden has been lifted. The conscience is clear. The heart is pure. The mind is free from guilt. And we can continue walking in the light.
Following this Biblical injunction will release us from sin’s slavery of our past life, give us a present life that is filled with joy and peace and offer the hope of a future life in heavenly mansions.
When the King comes to question you, be honest. He already knows the truth.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman