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Unintentional Sin
Mart De Haan

    I gave one of our children more spending money than I should have. In the process I broke a family agreement. When I told my wife why I had handed out more domestic aid than I had agreed to she didn't buy my explanation. Her reason came in a few short words: "Mart, you want to be liked. But you are a parent."

    She was right. As soon as she said it, I felt it. I tried a quick self-defence. But as soon as the self justification came out of my mouth I knew I was wrong. I caught myself, and with a sheepish smile said, "You're right."

    What was the explanation she didn't accept? I had told my wife that when asked for money, I had been lazy and didn't want to make an effort to run around the house looking for the right amount. I remember thinking to myself that at least I was admitting I knew I was wrong, and even conceding to something as unbecoming as laziness.

    Did I lie? No. When asked for money, I distinctly remember feeling that I didn't want to go to the bother of getting the right amount. Was my wife wrong in not buying my self depreciating explanation? No, she was right. My explanation was a half-truth. Looking back, I can see that the more important motive was the one she picked up on. I wanted to be seen as a dad who was generous. I didn't want to face the momentary irritation, anger, or rejection of a child. My laziness was a lesser issue.

    This might sound like I'm indulging in petty, self-absorbed hindsight. But it seems far more than that to me. In seeing my wife's insight, I felt both sadness and relief. Sadness - in realizing that I had fooled myself, indulged in our child, and unwittingly misrepresented my motives to my wife. Relief - for the moment of insight. Truth even in small amounts is a taste of something better.

    So now what am I doing? Beating myself up trying to atone for a guilty conscience? Trying to show how sensitive I can be when shown how sensitive I was? Maybe so. I hope not. I can see a more important reason for the admission .

    I think I'm more conscious now of how easily and unknowingly I can get caught up in justifying myself at the expense of others. I think I'm also aware of why the Old Testament gave such emphasis to offering a sacrifice when the people of God discovered that they had committed an unintentional sin in ignorance.

    God made a big issue of unintended sin. Levitical laws of sacrifice make that clear. Over and over, Moses said that when the people of God found that they had committed an unintentional sin, they were to bring a sin- or trespass offering to the altar of God. All through the New Testament, the apostle Peter acknowledged that his countrymen committed an unintentional sin when they crucified the Son of God. Specifically, Peter said of their most terrible crime, " Yet now brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers." (Acts 3:17)

    Ignorance is an understandable explanation. When we are guilty of a serious sin, we almost always plead ignorance or insanity. And why not? Isn't all sin or crime an expression of ignorance or insanity? Who would ever do wrong if we understood the implications of what we were doing to ourselves and others?

    Even more important is the repeated warning of Scripture that God's ways do not come naturally to us. Even with the Spirit of God living in us, we are still clothed in the flesh, which makes it difficult for us to see the outcome of what we are doing, why we are really doing it, and how differently we would be thinking if Christ were living in our circumstances.

    Yet he is living in us, and that's why it's so important to for us to spend time asking Him to let us see what is really happening in us, through us, and around us.

    Pray this prayer with me:
    Lord, give us Your mind. Free us from our self measurements and self limitations. Let the mind of Your Son be formed in us. Search our hearts and show us how to think and trust and love as He did when He was here on the earth. Let us live under Your influence so that we long in an increasing and deepening desire for truth, love, and grace.

    Search us, O' God, so that we do not hear Your Son say on the day of our judgement, "You wanted to be liked. But you were a servant. You were a parent. You were a son. You were a daughter. You were an ambassador. You were a witness. You were the light of the world. You were the salt of the earth."

This article was extracted from Times of Discovery - RBC Ministries.