A third action of repentance is that of mourning. James wrote, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom,” (James 4:9, ESV). The picture here is that of taking sin lightly. Sin becomes a laughable offense. It is delighted in rather than delighting in God’s goodness.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is having to get on to the church for their lackadaisical attitude toward a particular sin. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife,” (v. 1, ESV). Here we have the church not taking sin seriously. Even non-believers would look at a young man sleeping with his step-mother as something that shouldn’t be done; how then can they just stand by and do nothing? Look at Paul’s next words, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn,” (v. 2, ESV, italics mine)? That word Paul used for mourn is the same word that James used. It is an expression of grief that is also used to describe the mourning that comes with a loved one’s death.
The next time I deal with James’ call to repentance we will see his next words about humbling ourselves, but it would seem that he and Paul both would agree that the degree by which sin is thought so little must stem from arrogance, of which God promises to alleviate for the the proud, and so the believer cannot last long with such a low view of sin.
The most scandalous event in Scripture (outside the cross) is perhaps what happened between King David and Bathsheba. David saw Bathsheba bathing and asked who she was. Finding out she was the wife of one of his great warriors, he sent a messenger to her giving orders to bring her to his bedroom. It was there that the King of Israel lay with her. She ended up pregnant. Rather than admit his sin, confess, repent, and mourn, he simply tried to cover it up. He brought Uriah, her husband, back from war and tried to get him to go home and sleep with his wife. He was too honorable to do so. So David threw a party, got Uriah drunk thinking he’d not be as honorable drunk, but it still didn’t work. Finally, he had Uriah killed on the front lines. What arrogance! That is a man who did not take his sin seriously (only his reputation).
But when Nathan came to him and confronted him, David’s demeanor changed. Psalm 51 was his mourning over his sin with Bathsheba. He begged for mercy and grace. He asked for washing and cleansing. He prayed for purging, and then said, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice,” (Psalm 51:8, ESV). His joy was gone. There was no more to laugh about. No more to enjoy. He could only hope that God would grant him those things in the future. For now there was mourning over his sin.
One must contemplate the destruction of sin. It’s destruction could be described as a spiritual tsunami, leaving death, mayhem, pain, loss, and agony in its wake. Just this morning news struck of a man whom I only knew of, but never met. He resigned his position of president and CEO of a major denomination’s executive committee. His confession and actions, as well as his contrite spirit, show his repentance. But his sin–whatever it may be and however long it lasted–leaves devastation behind. The denomination, the churches, the legacy, the family, etc., are all adversly affected due to one man’s sin. He will live with that, and I am sure, he will mourn over it for some time. But I am equally sure that in the midst of this sin and brokenness, this man also remembers that his sin has been paid for at the cross. Though broken by sin; he can rejoice in grace.
As we take a deeper look at our sin, may we see it isn’t fun and games, but deadly serious. Let us remember David’s words, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite (remorseful) heart, O God, you will not despise,” (Psalm 51:17, ESV) And as we mourn, may we remember Paul’s words, “But wher sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” (Romans 5:20b, ESV).