“I Don’t Know What Came Over Me”
It’s common these days when someone’s wrong is exposed for them to say, “I don’t know what came over me; this isn’t who I am”. David says the opposite: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
Scholars debate whether David was using poetic exaggeration (hyperbole) here or whether he really believed he had a sinful nature even from the moment he was conceived. But David’s basic point is clear: what he did was an outworking of what is deep within him. He committed adultery because he is, in his heart, an adulterer. He lied because he is, in his heart, a liar. He murdered because he is, in his heart, a murderer. David understands that this is a heart issue, not some one-off behavioural aberration. He did what he did because his heart is as it is.
This is a deeply uncomfortable realisation to come to terms with, but it is what we see throughout the teaching of Jesus. We instinctively want to make the issue our behaviour (which we trust can be improved); Jesus constantly challenges us to see that the issue is our heart ...
It’s not enough to say to God, “I wish I hadn’t done that”. What we really need to say is, “I wish I wasn’t the kind of person who does that.”