There are probably not too many cinematic moments greater than the courtroom scene in A Few Good Men where Lt. Kaffee grills Col. Nathan Jessep about his involvement in the death of one of his marines. In a gamble as big as taking a job at the University of Alabama, Kaffee presses Jessep for a confession. Appealing to his pride as a marine and his pride in himself he pokes and prodes the senior officer until he snaps at the insolence of this young upstart who’s never held a rifle in combat.
Jessep: “You want answers?”
Kaffee: “I want the truth!!”
Jessep: “You can’t handle the truth!!”
You almost root for Jessep’s prideful defense of his own mistake. You almost root for this man to win, for him to show this boy that the party’s over and daddy’s gonna get up and go home after giving him a swift spanking. It’s just one big testosterone filled moment.
Most of us can identify with the good Colonel though, not because we’ve ever had to stand on a wall and protect the country, but because we all know what it feels like to be pushed. We know what it’s like to harbor some secret that we desperately want to let out but just can’t. Most of the time we don’t tell because of the consequences we know will follow immediately after, whether it’s loss of respect, loss of position, or even a loss of the secret itself.
The bible teaches that for Christians sin is like a cancer that makes us rot from the inside out. David recounts the awful effects of sin in his own life after keeping it secret from everyone.
“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” Psalm 32:3-4
Pent up sin can cause great misery for the believer. It is rottenness in the bones. It’s like having to carry around the burden of many hours toil in the heat of summer. It is misery inside and out. When church discipline is applied to someone in this condition there is an inner struggle that rages. Two instincts collide and go to war. On one hand you have the instinct to protect your reputation, your pride, your sin. On the other there is the intense desire to unload your burden. Church discipline is that one thing that becomes a help when Christians aren’t strong enough to do the right thing all on their own. It is the surgeon’s hand that opens the wound and cleans out the infection. David could testify to the healing power of this grace.
“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5
This is the thing that David had to come to realize. Hiding it from God’s people just proved that he was hiding it from God. Somehow we fall into the lie of thinking that if the church thinks well of us, then God is pleased with us too. This only adds to the guilt of a life desperately trying to save face.
Marie looked me straight in the eye once and said, “Adam, you need to stop worrying about what I think of you and start worrying about what God thinks of you.” That is a humiliating thing. To have your wife, who knows you better than anyone, recognize that you are playing a game in front of people in order to try and be something you’re not. God sees the inward heart. He knows what lies deep inside. He already knows the shame and rottenness within. For the church not to know is just a temporary thing if we hide it from God. He will uncover it. He will lay it bare.
“…let her put away her harlotry from her face and and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, make her like desert land and slay her with thirst.” Hosea 2:2b-3
Either confess your sin and repent or God will uncover your nakedness. He will shame you publicly in order to save you. He is not concerned about your reputation so much as He is concerned for your holiness. If He has to, He will use the church to uncover your sin. The benefit of church discipline is that He will hurt you to help you. He will shame you to save you. He will wound you so that He can ultimately heal you.
Is that hard to hear? Sometimes we just can’t handle the truth.