The Gospel Isn’t General, It’s Specific

Here is short excerpt from Eugene Peterson’s commentary on 2 Samuel 12:7 “You are the man!” from his book: Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians (another book I recommend!)

This is the gospel focus: you are the man; you are the woman. The gospel is never about somebody else; it’s always about you, about me. The gospel is never truth in general; it’s always specific. The gospel is never a commentary on ideas or culture or conditions; it’s always about actual persons, actual pain, actual trouble, actual sin: you, me; who you are and what you’ve done; who I am and what I’ve done.

It’s both easy and common to lose this focus, to let the gospel blur into generalized pronouncements, boozy cosmic opinions, religious indignation. That’s what David is doing in this story, listening to his pastor preach a sermon about somebody else and getting all worked up about this someone else’s sin, this someone else’s plight. That kind of religious response is worthless: it’s the religion of the college dormitory bull session, the TV spectacular, the talk-show gossip. It’s the religion of moral judgmentalism, self-righteous finger-pointing, the religion of accusation and blame.

With each additonal word in Nathan’s sermon, David becomes more religious–feeling sorry for the poor man who lost his pet lamb, seething with indignation over the rich man who stole the lamb. Pitying and judging are religious sentiments that can be indulged endlessly, making us feel vastly superior to everyone around us, but they’re incapable of making a particle of difference in our lives. David, pitying and judging, becoming more religious by the minute, absorbed in a huge blur of moral sentimentality.

And then the sudden, clear gospel focus: you are the one–you . . . . David is now in the gospel focus. Addressed personally, he answers personally: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). He abandons the generalities of religion. He quits giving out opinions on other people’s lives, good or bad, realizes his position before God–a sinner! A person in trouble, a person who needs help, a human being who nees God.

~ Eugene Peterson in Leap Over A Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everday Christians page 185.

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