Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Sins" and "mistakes"

I'm thinking along the lines of today's Pyro post — sin, repentance, forgiveness, and All That. The Willises find themselves dealing (again!) with how to respond to ex-Governor Ryan, now that he has "apologized."

Or has he?

Three times Ryan refers to the crimes that sent him to jail as "mistakes." Straight-up, that's not a good sign. One of the first and surest signs I remember indicating that The Nameless One had not even driven his El Camino in the same county as repentance was his repeated reference to his abuse of Monica Lewinsky as a "mistake." At the time, I scoffed, "'Mistake'! If he thought that was Hillary at the time, only to discover to his horror that it wasn't, that would be a 'mistake.' This wasn't a 'mistake.'"

When you add up some figures and accidentally get it wrong, that's a mistake. When you reach past the dented soup can to get the next one, and find out later that it was beef broth instead of chicken noodle, that's a mistake. If you tell everyone to turn to verse one when you should be saying verse twenty-one, that's a mistake. When you click "No" instead of "Yes" and lose a document you've worked on for four hours, that's a mistake.

Is sin a mistake? Well, in the sense of Oh dear God help me I should not have done that!, yes, it is a mistake. It is The Wrong Thing to Do. It is Something I Never Should Have Done. Yes, sin is a mistake.

Eve was indeed mistaken to believe the Serpent. Adam was indeed mistaken to follow his wife into sin to keep peace at home (or whatever lame excuse he made to himself). Cain was mistaken to think that murdering his brother would make him feel better in the long run.

Saul was mistaken to think he could be excused for doing a priestly act. David was mistaken to think he could run through the Top Ten and break every one because he was a king (or, again, whatever he told himself). The Jewish leaders were mistaken to think that getting Jesus lynched would solve their problems. Pilate was mistaken to think doing what he knew to be unjust was a good idea. They all were mistaken to think that their actions solved the "Jesus problem."

So yes, sin is a "mistake." It is always a "mistake," because it is always the wrong thing to do.

But sin is never just a mistake.

"Sin," the Holy Spirit tells us through John, "is ἀνομία," it is lawlessness. That is, it is thinking and acting as if the Law of God does not apply to me, as if I am a law unto myself. I consult myself and my feelings, tell myself that this is a good thing to do, and I do it. I act as a god.

When I call my sin a "mistake," I'm insisting that I'm really basically a good person. Why, I would never do something really wrong! I also say that what I did was not that big of a deal. It was just a slip, a goof, an oopsie. Anyone could do it. And I try to evade any consequences. I mean, good Lord, don't make a federal case out of it! It was just a mistake.

A repentant man does not view, nor approach, nor deal with his sin that way. He deals with it as sin, something done deliberately, inexcusably, and culpably. He blames only himself, he agrees with God in damning it (and himself for committing it), he judges it, and he deals with it as God lays out for him to do. The scope of his sin is the scope of his repentance. He takes full responsibility, names it, claims it, disowns it, begs forgiveness of God and all the wronged, and does anything and everything he must to make it right.

(Here's the irony: many people who would do most or all of that with a mere mistake, insanely won't do that with a sin.)

Sigh. Well, there's a lot more to unpack there. I guess I'll have to do (at least) one more post unpacking sin and repentance and forgiveness.

UPDATE:
the timing of this post is interesting, in unintended. Did you know it's the eve of the tenth anniversary of The Nameless One's impeachment?

15 comments:

NoLongerBlind said...

Great post(s), Dan (here and at TeamPyro!).

As someone who's struggling to deal appropriately with an on-going issue -almost 3 years- that needs forgiveness and reconciliation, but the offending parties have yet to show any contrition or repentance, this is a big help to me.
I'm looking forward to reading Pastor Braun's book over the holidays, and the follow-up posts that you "promised"! ;^)

DJP said...

"Promised," "threatened" — depends on who you ask.

CR said...

The general pattern of President Bush's pardons has been to give pardons to very small crimes or pardons to people that have already completed their sentences or most of their sentences.

I would be surprised if the President gave a pardon to Ryan, but I could be wrong.

Rachael Starke said...

The Braun book is - I'm only part way through and am looking forward to finishing it after Christmas - it deserves more than my current "ten minutes at bedtime before I fall asleep from exhaustion."

The whole mistakes piece is big, especially when it comes to raising kids. My oldest over-achiever is really wrestling with pride over having her A+ average slip to an A- because she's starting to hit the wall in math. I've been trying to help her understand that making mistakes in her math homework is not sin. The sin is the weeping and wailing over it.

We're have some tough going trying to figure out if Jesus made mistakes on his compound addition and substraction. I'm pretty sure He did, but he didn't throw himself bodily over the kitchen table lamenting that He'll never be a scientist unless He gets an A+...

Rachael Starke said...

And on a grammatical note -

I've always been thankful for the great foundation in grammar I was given, not just in high school, but later in college as part of my English degree. The wildly popular phrases "mistakes were made", and its close relation "sins were committed", make for very entertaining and enlightening analysis, especially when your profeessor is a Christian.

Rachael Starke said...

Okay - the Braun book is wonderful,

my professor was a Christian,

and English majors shouldn't celebrate their erudition and make multiiple writing errors in the same post.

Must stop praying for humility. :)

CR said...

Rachael: We're have some tough going trying to figure out if Jesus made mistakes on his compound addition and substraction. I'm pretty sure He did, but he didn't throw himself bodily over the kitchen table lamenting that He'll never be a scientist unless He gets an A+...

Rachael,

It's easy to not remember this, but we must not forget, while the second Person of the Trinity was here on earth as Jesus, his role of sustainer of the universe (keeping the planets from coliding and imploding, keeping the universe from destroying itself in a billion pieces), He was, in fact, sustaining the universe.

It's actually amazing if you think about it. His role of sustainer continued when He was conceived in Mary's womb by the Holy Spirit, while he was crying as an infant for food, growing up as a child and did His earthly ministry - He was doing all that and still keeping the universe together. The specifics of how He was able to do all that and yet had to learn and grow in wisdom is beyond anyone's comprehension - except to say He was God.

I'm sure His math skills were superb and He made no mistakes.

CR said...

I heard RC Sproul talk about an issue some time ago and I can't remember what it was right now, but I remember him saying that the American people (not the media because they hated him) were probably ready to forgive Richard Nixon but that he ruined his chances when he made this statement: "I made a mistake."

Apparently, the American people were outraged at this statement. Making a "mistake" are like some of the things Rachael mentioned - math errors. Or another example, not checking your spelling and grammar before you submit a comment. Now, these are "mistakes."

But what Richard Nixon did was not a mistake. What Ryan did, were not mistakes.

I think this is just part of the sinful nature. We're so forgiving of ourselves and are quick to call our sins, "mistakes."

Kristine said...

I just finished reading "The Prodigal God" by Tim Keller last night, and he writes of how Jesus completely redefines our default notions of sin, in this very familiar parable. It's so much than a mistake.

Gilbert said...

Ah, yes, our LAST governor, before our current one has denied massive allegations and said he, of course, "has done nothing wrong". The cowards in our courts even refused to declare him unfit to lead as governor, even though he has no confidence from our legislature!

I remember this case well. The accident you describe occurred near Joliet, a southwest Chicago suburb---and was so horrific that it even made one of our local and rather famous traffic reporters here almost lose it as he described what had happened after he learned the details.

I assert that if this country doesn't have its pastors start preaching about sin again, then Jesus simply won't matter to anyone. And of course, you know what happens to nations who deny God and declare people's sinful nature to be the rule of the land...

I really hope and pray that the Willises can come to a responsible closure to this situation, in whicch Mr. Ryan gets completely convicted and repents of his sin.
His acts, as those of our current and other past governors, are destroying our state.

David said...

Very timely post for some things I have been pondering lately. I hope to pose this as a question to get some insight. I have been reading/studying the Old Testament.

1) Murder was/is sin in both covenants.

2)accidental deaths caused by people were not only not punished in OT, but there were refuge cities established to house the offender.

3) Negligence was punished.

I will grant that this scenario I have seen only applied in the place of killing another person. But if it is applied to other sins, i.e. an accident is an accident, and while there may not be punishment, per se, there are still consequences., then where is the line between accident and sin?

I have seen so many times when I have done something stupid that has offended my wife. Perhaps I have said/revealed something that she has not been happy with. I am mortified, remorseful, embarrassed, and convicted all at once. I tend to bring this to God and confess this as sin, but is that the case? Are there accidents?

When I ponder it quite for any length, I tend to think that most if not all accidents are negligent in some manner or another. Just like many traffic accidents can be avoided with more careful attention and driving (provided you are not the one run into--i am talking about the damager not the damagee).

Not sure my question makes sense, yet, so I will boil it down to...are there true accidents or not? If there is a true accident/mistake then is it sin or not.

I would agree with your proposition that all sins are mistakes> but are all mistakes sin?

David

Andrew said...

Great post, Dan. I will use this series as a launching point for teaching my family about sincere/insincere repentance.

When/why/how did you come up with "The Nameless One"??

Why is he nameless? Is it that mentioning his very name recalls his tragically poor leadership of our country? It's funny but I think I don't get it.

DJP said...

Oh boy, that's been a convention in my family for so long, I may need to appeal to my dear wife's superior memory. I think it started as "Him Who Must Not Be Named," and then was shortened.

Yes, it is at least connected to him being the lowest, most disgraceful person ever to drag that office into the gutter to serve his selfish, middle-aged-teenager purposes. Perhaps the inspiration was my father-in-law, who in counting the presidents skips directly from Ford to Reagan.

Though I will say (if memory serves), at least twice I have cured hiccups in my kids by shouting "Ahh! Clinton!"

Because, whether morally or spiritually, it doesn't get much scarier than a blame-shifting, responsibility-shrugging, soulless, spineless, lying, perpetually-immature "Christian" hypocrite.

RT said...

I think Sauron is referred to as "The Nameless One" occasionally in Lord of the Rings so I assumed that was its derivation in your writing. Certainly any failure of your Nameless One to come up to Sauron's standards was not for any want of disposition. One musn't confuse virtue with mere lack of opportunity.

DJP said...

That could very well be it, since I've read LOTR for decades.