Sins and Mistakes
Blog -> Bible
Over the last few months I had multiple discussions on the topic of "Sin and mistakes". It all started when I was giving an Alpha Talk on the topic of "Why did Jesus die?" Obviously, to answer that question we need to establish the point that "we are all sinners". So in that talk I used the term "mistakes" once or twice referring to sin. Afterwards someone came to me, correcting me: "You shouldn't use the term ''mistake' when referring to sin." I didn't get it. So he explained: "Because mistakes aren't sin!"
Initially I didn't agree. So we discussed, explained to each other what we meant (Many arguments simply happen because we mean different things using the same term). So basically what it came down to was this:
- My friend believes that if you do something that has a bad outcome, but you couldn't really predict that something bad would happen, then it's a mistake. For example, you simply reach for a water on the table and for some reason you just knock over the jar and spill the water, then you didn't sin. If you do it intentionally, then it's sin. But if you simply couldn't know what was going to happen, then it's just a mistake.
- I argued that anytime something bad happens, someone must have sinned.
So we ended our discussion that night, agreeing that we disagreed. Now to be fair: we did agree that we can sin unintentionally. The Old Testament Law is clear on that.
Leviticus 4:2-3 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall act against any one of them: If the priest that is anointed sins according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he has sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering.
So yes, we agreed, it's possible to sin unintentionally. The remaining question and disagreement was: "Is it possible that something bad happens, and it's nobody's sin?" Like the spilled water, or a kid who gets hurt playing, etc.
This question bugged me. Because I couldn't really find any Biblical evidence one way or the other. And I realized that the answer has implications. For example:
- In the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, was it possible that Adam and Eve got a bit too excited playing with each other, and they accidentaly stepped on an animal and that animal died?
- Did Jesus (who never sinned) ever run down a hill in excitement, fall and hurt himself? Did he ever play with a stone and it fell on his foot or the foot of a friend he played with?
- Did Jesus ever attempt to help his father in the carpenter shop, and mess up a table, because He tried to do something that He was too young to do?
These kinds of questions ran through my head. If we could make mistakes without sinning, then the answer to all these questions is "yes". If mistakes are sin, then the answer is "no".
I was still convicted that mistakes are sin. But I couldn't really find any Biblical evidence.
However, after doing some more research over the last few months, I can say that still stand by my point. I believe that mistakes are sin. For multiple reasons.
Jonathan eating honey
Let me start with my final finding first. After thinking through all the other bullet points that I'll mention later, I read the story of Jonathan eating honey. That's what I believe is a clear situation of someone making a mistake, and the Bible calls it sin.
Let's look at it more closely. Israel is in battle. Saul is their king, their leader. And he gives everybody this command:
1 Samuel 14:24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had lain an oath on the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eats any food until evening, that I may be avenged on my enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.
Saul gives a clear command. The only problem was: His son Jonathan did NOT hear about this oath. Since he didn't know about it, he didn't obey.
1 Samuel 14:26-27 And when the people were come into the forest, behold, the honey dripped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: therefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were brightened.
A clear mistake, right? It's not wrong eating honey. And Jonathan didn't know what his father had commanded. He couldn't have known. That's not sin, he didn't do anything wrong. He just made a mistake!
Well, let's read on.A few verses later, Saul is consulting God:
1 Samuel 14:37-38 And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? will you deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day. And Saul said, Draw you near here, all you leaders of the people: and know and see what this sin has been this day.
Oh. Saul was seeking God, but couldn't hear from Him. Why? Well, Saul knew that there is only one possible reason why God doesn't speak. Someone in the camp must have sinned! So they cast the lot, God identifies Jonathan as the sinner.
Clearly, Jonathan's actions would fall under what many people nowadays would call "mistake, but not sin". He ate, which is not wrong. He didn't know about his father's oath, he couldn't have known about it. But the Bible still calls it sin.
To me personally, this is the clearest revelation I have found so far that "making a mistake" is still sin in God's eyes.
Nevertheless, here are a few more reasons why I personally am convited that mistakes are sin.
God gives warnings
When I meditated on this whole topic, I asked myself: "What happend when I made mistakes! Was there any way to hold myself responsible for the mistakes I made?" And after meditating on this for a while, I had to admit: "Yes, there was!" I thought of several situations when I did what other people would call a mistake. And practically every time I had to admit: The Holy Spirit told me beforehand that I shouldn't do this! I had this weird feeling inside of me that I shouldn't pursue this. I did it anyways. And now I understand why I shouldn't have done it.
This revelation got even greater when I looked at how I relate to my children. Sometimes they don't know that they are running towards danger. But I know. What do I do in those kinds of situations? Well, basically I do one of three things:
1) Sometimes I warn them. Sometimes I tell them "You really shouldn't do this, because it's dangerous." And I hope they listen.
2) Sometimes, if I have already told them before, I have to let them feel the consequences. Sometimes I need to say: "You shold know better, I've told you many times before. If you don't listen any other way, then feel the pain of touching the hot pan. Hope you learn your lesson!"
But the key here is this: I only do that if I've warned them before, and if I know that they know. If they don't know about the danger they're getting themselves into, I warn them first. Or I do the third possibility.
3) Sometimes I simply need to take them away from the situation. Sometimes they're too immature, they can't know, they can't handle things, the temptation is too great,... Whatever it is. Sometimes I simply need to take them away from the situation and force my way on them.
What I am trying to communicate is this: Yes, sometimes I allow my kids to make a wrong choice. But ONLY if I know that I warned them before. I never allow them to face a danger or a bad outcome that they couldn't know of.
Now of course, I do this imperfectly, I'm human, and my fathering skills are far from perfect. But this is what I am aiming for. Protect them from danger and warn them. Only sometimes when I know that they know that they are disobeying me, THEN I allow them to go ahead. And face the consequences.
Now if as earthly parents we aim for that, how much more can we be certain that God is doing exactly that? I am absolutely convicted that God will never allow us to face bad stuff without giving us warnings. Without telling us; "Don't go there. Something bad is going to happen if you continue this way!"
Now of course, that doesn't save us from other people's sin. Jesus was in perfect obedience to the Father, and He still got accussed, insulted, and ultimately killed on a cross. So I'm not saying that "every time something bad happens to us, we did something wrong". But I am saying that I firmly believe that God gives us warnings before we make mistakes. I firmly believe that the Spirit will tell us: "Don't go down that street", "Don't eat this food" or "Don't buy this product here". From my experience, I can say: Whenever I made a mistake, I can nearly always look back in time and say: "You know, one week earlier I had the feeling God was telling me not to do that. I did it anways. Now I understand that I disobeyed God!"
So what I'm trying to say is: When we make mistakes, I believe we have been disobedient to God somewhere in the process before. Somewhere earlier God was telling us: "Don't do that!" We chose to either not listen, to ignore what He said or to flat out disobey. That was sin! And as a result of our disobedience, the mistake becomes evident some time later.
Death entered the world through sin
A few more smaller reasons why I believe mistakes are sin. One is that the Bible clearly states that death entered the world through sin. Mistakes can lead to death (e.g. Someone makes a mistake, stumble on the sidewalk, falls on the street and a car hits the person to death). So if we believe that there was no death before the original sin, but Adam and Eve made mistakes, and mistakes can lead to death, then ... we have a contradiction here.
If Jesus was capable of making mistakes, God's salvation plan was subject to luck
Think about it: If Jesus was able to make mistakes, he could have eaten a poisonous mushrom. He might have tried to help his mom to light the fire for her to cook, make a mistake, set the house on fire, and die in the house. He might have played happily outside, unknowingly enter a dangerous area, and be attacked by a wild animal. Jesus could have hurt or even killed himself as a child, which would have prevented Him from fulfilling His destiny, His death and resurrection.
God's master plan of salvation being dependent on luck? That doesn't sound right to me
I do not believe that pain was part of God's original design
I do not believe that pain was part of God's original design. Pain is a result of sin. So anytime someone feels pain, someone sinned. Could be the person him-/herself (e.g. accdientally dropping a bottle of water on his/her foot), could be someone else's sin (e.g. a person who pushes us and causes us to fall), could be something that society does (e.g. bad food quality that leads to bad health). But the point is: When someone feels pain, someone sinned.
God is perfect
God says that He is perfect. And He is the standard. How can we say that we fall short of His perfection, but it's not sin?
If mistakes are not sin, then what about heaven?
We know that the difference in heaven will be that there will be no more sin. We also know that there will be no more tears, no more hurts, etc. Everything will be perfect.
If we believe that everything will be perfect, then there won't be mistakes any more either. Because mistakes can cause pain. So if everything imperfect will be removed in heaven, and mistakes will be removed as well, then how come we think that mistakes in this world are not sin? Mistakes are imperfect, imperfection is sin.
Why do I need to apologize if I didn't do anything wrong?
We all know that if I hurt someone, I need to apologize. Even if it wasn't my intention. If I go to someone's home, and I accidentally break a drinking cup they gave me, then I need to apologize. I need to say "I'm sorry!" I should also offer to restore what I broke.
If I made a mistake, if I didn't do anything wrong, then why do I have to apologize? How come we need to apologize if we haven't sinned? Why would I need to apologize to a person when I don't need to say sorry to God? Does my friend whose cup I broke hold me to a higher standard than God does? So is God's standard of holiness and perfection not enough?
Now I realize: I'm in the great minority here. Most people I talk to about this topic do not agree with me. They say it's possible to do something unwise, but that's not necessarily sin. Or they say that "If you simply could not know about the bad outcome, then you made a mistake." I respect their opinions, and I'm certainly not claiming that I know it all. But just to say: These are the reasons why I personally came to the conclusion that mistakes are sin.
If you have any thoughts on this, pleas feel free to write in the comment section below. Would love to hear if you agree or disagree, or if you have any thoughts on this topic.
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