Following up on Stephen's post, as the resident South Carolinian on the Point, I’ve been trying to find the right words since news of our governor’s deplorable behavior became public last week. Everyone knows by now that Mark Sanford is carrying on an adulterous affair with a woman in Argentina, that he sneaked away over Father’s Day weekend like he was part of some cloak-and-dagger spy drama, and that he resurfaced, tearful but resolute on keeping his seat in the State House, willing to spill the sordid details of his story to any reporter who will listen.
Asked about whether he will resign as governor, Sanford pointed to the Biblical example of King David, who engaged in an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. When Bathsheba wound up pregnant, David conspired to cover it all up, eventually murdering Bathsheba’s husband.
What the governor remembers about King David’s story from his Sunday school days is that David continued to rule as king and that, in spite of his failures, God restored David.
The governor seems to have missed or forgotten two key elements to David’s story. First, David was repentant. After Nathan the prophet confronted David through a parable, David wrote, “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…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51: 3, 4, 10 ESV).
The governor has done a lot of confessing over the last week, some of it probably best left between him and God and his wife instead of broadcast for all the world to hear. But what is noticeably absent from his speech since last Tuesday is repentance. The governor says he wants his four sons to see redemption played out in his life, but Paul told the Corinthian church that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Cor 7:10 NIV). Governor Sanford seems sorry only that he got caught, that he put his staff in an awkward situation, and that he can’t be with his mistress.
The second thing that Governor Sanford seems to have forgotten about King David’s story is the devastating effect that David’s sin had on his children. 2 Samuel 12 tells us that after Nathan confronted David and after David confessed and repented of the sin he had committed, Nathan had to deliver some awful news to the Israelite king. “Because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die” (2 Sam 12:14 NIV).
David’s punishment was extreme, but the overarching principle—that children often suffer because of their parents’ mistakes—still holds true.
Governor Sanford has four sons, all of them still school-aged. Imagine for a minute the embarrassment of those boys as their dad tells the Associated Press about his love for another woman and his dalliances through the years. Imagine the life lessons they are learning from a father who appears to be choosing his political career (ruined though it may now be) over their family. Now imagine how different it might all be if he had, instead, rushed home and shed his tears in front of his wife and children, not the news cameras, and expressed his sorrow at his behavior, not just the aftereffects.
Only a little more than a week has transpired since Mark Sanford admitted his transgressions, so I can’t presume to know how this story will turn out. Let’s hope that the governor takes a few notes from King David after all. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps 51:17 NIV).