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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 30 : Go to Offenders | Day 207

Appeal to the Conscience!

It had been about a year since David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for the death of her husband. David's cover-up appeared to have been successful. He was carrying out the business of his kingdom and enjoying the little child that resulted from his adultery. Nathan the prophet was charged by God with the responsibility of telling King David his fault. Nathan's example provides several important principles that we can follow when confronting an offender.

A key to confronting an offender is identifying the precise offense that was committed and then appealing to his conscience.

What was the precise offense of David? He committed adultery and conspired to commit murder, but the deeper sin was that of stealing from God. Life is created by God and no man has a right to destroy it. At a wedding, God joins a man and woman together in the covenant of marriage. By taking Uriah's wife, David dishonored this covenant.

With the precise offense identified, Nathan used a compelling story to appeal to the conscience of David. In that story, he told of a rich man who stole a beloved pet lamb from his poor neighbor and served the lamb as dinner to a traveling guest. David was so infuriated by this act of injustice that he commanded that the thief be killed.

After David pronounced this verdict of guilt, Nathan declared, “Thou art the man …” (II Samuel 12:7). Immediately, David's conscience was pricked, and he said, “I have sinned against the LORD" (II Samuel 12:13). His humility and repentance are reflected in the psalms he wrote, such as Psalm 51.

An effective appeal by Nathan resulted in David's prayer: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).

God has written His Law on our hearts (see Romans 2:14-15). Therefore, we know instinctively what is right and wrong. The purpose of God's Law is to act as a "schoolmaster" to bring us to Christ (see Galatians 3:24). By looking at the Law, we can see the holy standards of God and the great distance we have fallen from His perfection. We can appeal to a person's conscience by helping him see his words, thoughts, attitudes, and actions in the light of God's holy Law.

When parents say to a disobedient child, "Was that a smart thing to do?" they are appealing to his mind. By saying, "Don't you see how your actions are hurting others?" they are appealing to his emotions. If they say, "Promise us that you won't do this again" they are appealing to his will. But, if they say, "Was your action loving, kind, and just?" they are appealing to his conscience.

Because God's Word is the "sword of the Spirit," it is our chief weapon in appealing to a person's conscience. When we base our appeals on the principles of God's Word, the Holy Spirit can use them to bring conviction and repentance.

“… If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone … ” (Matthew 18:15).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard