As a hospital chaplain when I was called to the bedside of a dying patient one of the things I was asked most often about was forgiveness.
Knowing that the end of their life was near, the patient would be wondering about forgiveness. Often there was fear in their face and an anxiety in their voice. It was such a great privilege to talk with them about Jesus paying the price for their sin. It was also a humbling experience to assure them of God's forgiveness by repentance from their sin and trust in Jesus.
I remember once being called into ICU (the intensive care unit). The patient was unconscious. His wife was standing beside the bed. She asked me to pray for her husband. I prayed that God would have mercy on him, forgive him his sin, and welcome him into heaven. As I finished praying, the man's wife looked into my face and said, "He has been such a wonderful man. He didn't have any sin."
This of course was a wonderful testimony to a happy marriage. But it said nothing about the man's relationship with God.
I have often reflected on David's words in Psalm 51 after being confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba. In verse four he says to God, "Against you, you only have I sinned." What about Bathsheba? Has he not sinned against her? What about Bathsheba's husband whom David murdered? Why doesn't David acknowledge that he has sinned against them also? He has committed a great offence against them, and yet he seems to diminish that. It seems like a religious cop out.
A modern society would be horrified at any political leader who committed adultery and then engineered the death of the offended husband in an attempt to cover up his transgression. Not only would he loose office immediately but would also serve a long gaol sentence. The crime would go down in the annals of history as one of the worst things a person could have done against another human being. And yet David seems to have no regard for the people he has offended against. He says that it is only God that he has sinned against.
The woman standing beside her dying husband could not believe that he could have possibly offended against a righteous God. David, in Psalm 51, could not see that he had done anything worse than sinned against a holy God.
So horrific did David see his sin against God that even the offences of adultery and murder paled into insignificance. David had a right understanding of sin. No matter how large or how small our offences against our fellow human beings may seem, the offence we cause God when we do those things he tells us not to do, far out weighs anything we might do against each other.
Any right thinking person would agree that David's offence against Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, would deserve the highest sanction and punishment. David saw that his highest offence was against God who sanctifies the marriage bed and human life. As evil as his crime against Bathsheba and Uriah was, the greater evil was the neglect of God and His overall superintending of the world.
As a hospital Chaplain in a life and death situation, it is impossible to speak of anything less than the holiness of God and our accountability to Him. The fear and anxiety of a dying person is often an acknowledgement of this accountability. The Christian Chaplain brings words of comfort and life, encouraging the dying person to repent of sin and trust Jesus for life because Jesus has paid the price for sin and risen to life.