Even The Righteous Fall

In her book, Sandy Koufax, A Lefty’s Legacy, Jane Leavy tells about this baseball player, who is one of the greatest in the history of the game. For those of us who have loved the game through the years, we followed Koufax as a Dodger Ð first in Brooklyn, and then in Los Angeles. We remember the 1966 season when he won twenty-seven games, lost only nine, and had an ERA of 1.73.

Tony Oliva tells of the 1965 World Series when Koufax threw five consistent fastballs past him; Tony hardly saw those balls. After the series, he went immediately to the eye doctor for an examination. The doctor consoled Oliva by saying; “There is nothing wrong with your eyes, Tony. You have the best eyes in the club. The problem is that Sandy Koufax’s fastball is hard for anybody to see.”

What is the purpose of this story about Sandy Koufax in our sermon? It is this statement by Jane Leavy: “The most difficult feat in sports is not a single act. It is the replication of that act in an endless vacuum of infinite space. . . . What made Koufax great was the ability to repeat a motion Ð pitch after pitch, batter after batter, game after game. His control was admired.”

Koufax also made this important point: “The pitcher wants to do the same thing every time.”

These statements speak to the Christian life. Whether or not it is possible to do the same thing every time a person plays the game, I do not know, though I doubt. However, one thing I do know: we are inconsistent in our daily walk with God. We soon learn this whether it is study of our life or another’s, no matter how prominent they might be. Study Luther’s life and you will be appalled at some of his behavior and language. Even the righteous fall Ð that is the theme for this sermon.

David is our example. Last Sunday we talked about David and his relationship with Mephibosheth. This story presents David in one of his greatest moments with God. Mephibosheth was a grandson of King Saul and a son of Jonathan, who was a close friend of David. One day David, who was now nicely established in his kingdom, asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”

Mephibosheth had been crippled since the age of five. When David learned that he was living in obscurity for fear of being killed because he was Saul’s grandson, he summoned him to the palace. After David met with Mephibosheth, the king shocked him with this announcement: “Mephibosheth, I will restore to you all the land that once belonged to your grandfather, Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

Here we see God’s love shining through in David’s personality. He was anxious to share his wealth with a man who was the son of his dear friend, Jonathan. Love flowed from David’s being.

As the days go by David becomes more secure in his position as the king of Israel. The Bible tells us that one evening David got up from his bed and walked around the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. This excited David, and you know the rest of the story. Though David was told that she was a married woman, he insisted on having her come to his bedroom. She became pregnant with David’s child.

We best remember David for two things: the first was killing the giant, Goliath; the second was committing adultery with Bathsheba. To cover up his sin, David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, sent to the front lines where he was killed as a soldier. Here we learn of David’s lowest moment. The man who lived so close to God and penned those beautiful psalms was the same man who stooped as low as one could possibly go. One can only conclude that even the righteous fall.

However, it was not the end for David. Through the ministry of Nathan, David’s pastor, God dealt with the king. He brought him to his knees in confession and heard him say, “I have sinned against God.” This was a time of healing. Rather than destroy David, God chose to give him another look at the power of grace. David deserved to die, but God chose to forgive him and let him start over.

From the moralist point of view, we could hear someone say, “How easy! One day you are falling into the mire of sin; the next day God has forgiven you, and it is a new day. What stops you from repeating the act?”

Only after we have experienced God’s forgiveness and love can we understand that to repeat a sin is the last thing we want to happen. David not only asked for forgiveness, he asked that God would create in him a clean heart and give him a new spirit. The righteous man had fallen, but God raised him up to be a greater person.

Thank God that our relationship with Him does not require a perfect walk to continue living under his grace. None of us are consistent in our righteous walk with God. We are not always the same gentle, loving people. All we have to do is ask our spouse how we act in those weaker moments at home. Hearing the children describe the Christian life of their father and mother might be quite painful. They would have many great things to say about their parents’ Christian witness.

Yet, they would also have to say that viewing life with the Lord from their own home was not always pleasing to God. The children would agree that even the righteous fall, but only to be lifted up by Jesus Christ to start again.

Often in my life as a father and husband I have had to ask my family for forgiveness. To fall does not mean defeat. It means that God can and will forgive you. This experience can make you a stronger witness for the Lord Jesus at home, at work, and at play.

From the role of a saint, to the depth of an immoral murderer, to the height of a spiritual leader describes David’s life quite well. How could God use him? All I know is that He did.

While we may not have lived in the same open sins, are we not also on some kind of spiritual roller coaster? One hour we can bring a strong witness for Jesus to some of our friends; the next hour we can be tyrants at home. One time we use our tongue to sing praises to God; and the next time the same tongue is used profanely or to speak ill of others.

St. Paul writes, “There is no one righteous, no not even one.” Even the righteous fall. Yet then God, who is our Savior, is there, ready to pick us up and send us on our way again, not to condone our sins, but to forgive them.

Let me ask you, “Does any other religion have a message such as this with which to confront our world?”