Is it a mistake or a sin? As part of spiritual awareness, I’ve often had to come to grips with this question. My heart conditions and motivation when I did was wrong. Is there a difference between a mistake and a sin? So what is the difference? This is like asking was it an error or did I err? These two words may sound alike but are slightly different concepts. In either case, the results are the same. I need to address my morality problems. When people seek spiritual healing, inevitably there is a “come to Jesus” moment when they realize that a lot of their problems are about themselves and not the other guy. To some, apologizing looms as a daunting task. I never could understand the uber-fear of apologizing or admitting to a wrong. The best Christian is an honest Christian.
When confronted with the truth of our misconduct, we’ll flip through a Rolodex of excuses as to why apologies are not necessary or how we can go around it. Yet, most of the time, our delay lies in the fear that someone else realizes we were wrong—as if—ha!–we’re always right! Maybe we’ve prided ourselves on being super-spiritual and consequently boxed ourselves in. Even so, we understand that we’re not always right but still, we just don’t want the other guy to realize that too.
Privately, we go through the process of asking God’s forgiveness, but shudder when a wrongdoing involves other people. We understand that private forgiveness is not the end of the process of atoning. Zaccheus, realized when he repented that, “Hey, there are some people I have wronged too.”
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. Luke 19:8
Think about this. In Genesis, when God destroyed the world, the bible says that he was grieved (hurt or sorry) that he had made man because mankind had become so wicked. He actually wished he could take it back. God understands regret and hurt.
Besides, the world is just as hurtful to God today as it was in Genesis, if not more so, and just because we have advanced to the point of having iPhones and laparoscopic surgeries, does not mean we are somehow more wonderful when it comes to sin. Sin will always grieve God.
I know. We don’t like to think about sin, but it must have been important to God. He mentions it in the New Testament nearly 300 times and in the old testament over 700. Wow! Really, really important to our relationship with God. It comes from focusing on the wrong things.
Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology notes that in the New Testament, the Greek word hamartano (translated ‘sin’ ) and its conjugates, point to the idea of missing the mark. For those that deeply study scripture, the real concept in Greek for the verb “sin” is not only missing the mark because of your motivation but because you aimed at the wrong thing. So the culpability is greater.1
Do we aim at the wrong things in life, and as a result constantly find ourselves missing the mark? Am I placing sin at a lesser level by calling it a mistake, when in actuality I have truly missed the mark and sinned? That’s something we have to answer between ourselves and God.
The confusion comes when we try to make something that is important to God, insignificant.
We’ll say “it was just a mistake” when in God’s eyes, all unrighteousness is sin. Isn’t choosing our own way another form of turning our back on God?
I’ve heard people rename sins as mistakes only because they don’t want to call it “sin”. It just sounds too bad to them. Somehow they feel better about the wrong by calling it an error when they’ve erred (wandered). However, if we believe the blood of Christ works in our lives, we must believe that repenting brings cleansing. If we deeply study the subject of sin, we would agree that God called all unrighteousness sin. Owning up to our wrong is what keeps us in fellowship with Christ.
When David sinned with Bathsheba (an intentional act) and killed her husband as a result of his lust, Nathan the prophet had to confront the king about sin. Nathan eloquently described David’s actions in the form of a story about someone else and their theft. Consequently, David wanted to chastise the person that had done such a horrible act and initially failed to recognize that the story was about him. David knew he was wrong but thought like many of us, he thought that if no one knew about it, he could pretend it didn’t exist.
Part of finding grace and healing in your spiritual walk is to locate yourself on the sin scale. Just because a person is outwardly moral (not smoking, drinking, fornication, carousing etc.) does not mean they meet God’s criteria of righteous living. God’s requirements are deeper. We must possess a heart that yields righteous fruit. This cannot be done on our own, it takes the power of Christ.
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
1.Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, Baker Academics, Grand Rapids, MI. 1998 ( p. 587).