I’ve heard a lot of discussion these past few days about sin, shame, forgiveness, repentence, grace. I’m all about the grace. I write about it a lot because I’ve experienced it a lot.
I often reference my past, and hint that I was not a model citizen, and joke around and say things like, “I can’t tell you everything due to various local statutes, etc.” I know the statute of limitations has run out on various activities/atrocities I perpetrated as a youth, but if I were to begin a list of the horrible things I did, I wonder just how far grace would be extended?
I know God has forgiven me. That is a fact. I no longer live in regret, and where applicable, I have made amends. But there are some people I have hurt that I don’t even know who they are, how to get ahold of them – my change of heart and mind came many years after the fact, and in many instance, I literally do not know who or even where they are. I can’t make right what I did in those circumstances.
Am I guilty? You bet. For all of it. Were my actions mistakes? No!
A mistake is when I am at work documenting a file and I hit save and then realize I was in the wrong file. A mistake is when I think it’s 35 MPH in my neighborhood but according to the nice officer it’s actually 30. A mistake is forgetting to set my alarm clock back to 6:30 am after a week of vacation.
A sin is something you do knowingly, blatantly, often times hiddenly. Sin is always on purpose, which is why there’s such as thing as grace to begin with.
Remember when God asked Adam, “What have you done?” He’d already sinned – the first sin ever – and he followed it up with the second – blame. It fell to Eve, and she committed the third sin ever which was blame as well. In fact, how it went down was like this, “It’s just some fruit. Maybe God was wrong. Maybe he won’t notice just one piece missing.” Then Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed God.
God gave us power of choice. I learned that a long time ago, but it was recently reinforced by pastor Alan Smith in his brilliant post which you can read here. I said it once already, and I’ll say it again – this post on blame is the most important thing I’ve ever read. You would be doing yourself a huge favor to read it now.
My choice is either to do the right thing and be rewarded, or do the wrong thing and suffer consequences. Sometimes the reward is just a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes the consequence is a kick to the conscience and an “I’m sorry.”
I have done some things, and I have had to give way more than an “I’m sorry.” My sins have cost me money, time, reputation. I completely lost my ability to be a witness in an entire geographical region. I’ve tried to go back several times, but it’s just not the same, and may never be.
So – is it sin or is it a mistake? Well, is someone else hurt over it, or do you just need some whiteout?
Another brilliant article, this time by Michael Hyatt, gives some insight. He writes, “The term ‘mistake’ implies…something done unintentionally. Unlike a mistake, we choose to sin. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for it—and the consequences that follow.”
He goes on to suggest five actions when you have sinned:
- Choose your words carefully – Agree with God that your actions were sinful.
- Take responsibility – There is no excuse. If you’ve sinned, you need to own it.
- Acknowledge guilt – Don’t make excuses.
- Change your behavior – True repentance = true change.
- Ask for forgiveness – I would change that to say you’re sorry. Asking forgiveness puts burden on the ones you have sinned against. They don’t owe you anything, you owe them. A little lesson I learned from Freedom Ministry at Gateway Church.
I’ve sinned horribly. I have hurt and offended many people. I am guilty. Do I deserve a second chance? No – but I got one anyway. And a third, and fourth, and fifth.
There are do overs. Unlimited chances. When people give up, turn their backs on you, when you are all alone in this world, there’s always going to be God. He’ll never quit on you, he’ll never condemn you, he’ll always be there to clean up the mess you’ve made of your life. Nothing you do will ever be too horrible to make him love you less. There is hope, and there is grace.