Mistake vs. Sin

Published on Aug 12th, 2015 by Pastor Ed Hlad | 0
Mistake vs. Sin

Mistake vs. Sin

I was watching a show last night and one of the main characters was struggling with her relationship with her father.  When she was fourteen years old she caught her father cheating on her mother.  Her dad begged her not to tell her mother and for years she had been carrying the burden of this secret.  Her dad was now back in town and was seeking to restore his relationship with his daughter.  He had long since reconciled with his wife and the two of them had moved passed his indiscretion.  It was interesting to watch as many people tried to help this woman mend her relationship with her father.  Each person tried to help this woman by reminding her that we are not perfect and that her father had made a mistake.  Yes, a huge mistake, a massively bad decision, a moment of weakness, but haven’t we all and so shouldn’t we forgive?  As I watched, and of course in the end the father and daughter began to reconcile, I couldn’t help but see the gaping hole in everyone’s encouragement.  It is not that we have not all made mistakes or made bad decisions.  It is not that we shouldn’t be patient with people based on our own imperfections, we should.  The hole in the story was that no one had a word that adequately described what the man had done.  No word really could bring healing to the daughter without placing the responsibility solely on her shoulders. Her shoulders were not where the responsibility should lie.  It should lie on his shoulders. When we use the word mistake it simply means we oopsed.  I accidentally hurt you and even though I may say sorry it is incumbent on you to recognize my oops and let it slide. Committing adultery is not a mistake.  It is not an oops.  The hurt I have caused you was not due to a mistake I made but due to a sinful choice, or a series of sinful choices, that I have made.  I am the one responsible and therefore the weight of seeking forgiveness lies on my shoulders.  I need to confess my sin to God and to those I have wronged and I must ask them to forgive me.  It is only when I do those things that I place the responsibility back on the shoulders of those whom I have sinned against.  I must also remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different processes.  Forgiveness can be an immediate transaction where reconciliation is a process that occurs over time.

Here is why these things are so important.  God chose to communicate his life-giving message primarily through words.  Words are very important.  They convey truth in a clear and concise manner (when used properly) and so God chose his words carefully.  The word mistake conjures up certain images in our minds.  So does the word sin.  Often our stumbling block in reconciling with someone is because they continually ask us to overlook their mistake.  We often cannot do that.  It was not a mistake.  It was not an oops.  You did mean to do it and it was who you really are.  Our hearts simply do not have the capacity to overlook such a wrong.  Sin is the word that can help us begin to move past the problem and begin the reconciliation process.  Sin is God’s word that recognizes an action that has stemmed from a nature.  Our sinful actions are a result from who we are.  They are not simply an anomaly but they come from the very depths of who we really are.  Sinners by nature.  When I admit and confess my sin for what it really is I am also confessing who I am by nature.  As a believer in Jesus, I have been made a new creation but at that moment of sin, I went back to my old nature and obeyed it rather than God.  When I seek your forgiveness, I am not asking you to overlook my sin, but I am asking you to show the same mercy and love that Jesus has shown you.  When I confess and seek forgiveness from you, I realize that I have wronged you and that I need from you something that only you can give.

The tricky part of all this comes when we think about on what basis do we give this forgiveness?  Do we base our forgiveness on our great love or magnanimity?  God doesn’t even forgive us based simply on his great love.  He bases his ability to forgive our sins on the payment Jesus made on the cross.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and so based on that payment God is able to forgive our sins.  He is able to grant us forgiveness and mercy.  It is out of that forgiveness and mercy that has been granted in our lives that we are able then to forgive others (see the parable of The Unforgiving Servant in Matt 18).  When we are wronged against, even in great ways, we are able to give forgiveness based on the great forgiveness we have been granted.  When those who have wronged us come to us and seek forgiveness, we can begin to move past that wrong by granting that which we have been so graciously given.  On the contrary, when someone comes and asks us to overlook their mistake that can only be done by the generosity of our hearts.  That may work in some cases but if we live long enough we will be hurt enough that only the forgiveness of Jesus will cover the sin that is done in our lives.

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