Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.” But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”…Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ You shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you.” So Samuel did what the Lord said, and came to Bethlehem. (1 Samuel 15:24-29 and 16:1-4 NASB, emphasis mine)
We all know that person. The prodigal son who refuses to return home. The single woman who’s living with the man who won’t commit to her. The father whose selfish ambitions matter more than his family and faith. The grandmother who walked out of church on the day her husband died and hasn’t been back since.
These people fell. They ran away from God. Maybe they’ve even confessed their sins, but their lives will never be the same because of their sinful choices.
Their actions hurt you. Every day, you think about their decisions and the consequences that followed. And you wallow in your sadness, disappointment, and pain. What else can you do?
There Is Another Option
I realize the passage above is long, but I want us to see what Samuel is experiencing. After disobeying God and lying about it, Saul is told by Samuel that he won’t be king forever because someone else has been called by God to the throne. But that doesn’t mean Samuel is okay with it. Based on verse 1 of chapter 16, it’s clear that Samuel has been grieving the fact that the king whom he anointed will be replaced.
I have heard from others and have come to believe that Samuel was grieving because Saul had sinned. A man who had once seemed godly was far from it. In fact, he was downright rebellious toward God. The consequences were severe, but just.
Even though Saul’s sin upset Samuel, God told Samuel it was time to stop grieving Saul’s sin. This is an incredible reminder for us that we aren’t meant to carry others’ sins (or the consequences) for them. So, maybe you, like Samuel, know Christians who have rebelled against God. Perhaps they are still rebelling against God, or perhaps they are repentant. Either way, they have to bear the consequences of their sins. You can’t bear those consequences for them.
Are you willing to move on—to new expectations and a new reality? Are you okay with doing the next right thing—like Samuel as he went to Bethlehem to anoint David? Are you able to let God handle others’ messes—and not force yourself to bear the weight of others’ sins?
What This Isn’t
I just wanted to note that I don’t think “letting go” of someone else’s sin means we should stop praying for them to turn back to God or grow closer to Him. It doesn’t mean we should forget about those who have rebelled against Him. It doesn’t mean we can stop reminding our Christian brothers and sisters of the gospel.
Letting go of someone means that we can—and should—move on. We can do the next right thing and follow God to the next place He leads us. We can let go of others’ sinful decisions because we aren’t responsible for those decisions.