Read: Leviticus 4-6, Matthew 25:1-30
I have a very early memory of my younger sister and I being in a convenience store with my father. As we were walking down a row lined with candy, my sister grabbed a gumball (shaped like a football—she remembers the incident) and, before my dad could do anything about it, popped it in her mouth and chomped down. I’m quite certain my father was a solid mix between livid and embarrassed. He knelt down in front of us and explained to us both that what had just happened was theft and there were consequences for it. We were marched up to the front counter and my sister made to apologize to the store clerk and pay for the consumed goods. We both learned a hard lesson that day. Sin is sin whether we realise it or not, and there are always consequences, even when the offense wasn’t intentional.
Today’s reading in Leviticus is all about the lengthy process required when unintentional sin is brought to light.
If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, he is guilty.
Leviticus 4:27 (NIV)
Sounds a little harsh. How can a person be guilty of they didn’t even know that what they were doing was wrong? Like us kids in the candy store, whether we were aware or not, to consume goods before purchase is wrong. Claiming ignorance did not alter the fact that a theft had occurred—no matter how insignificant it seemed.
It is my understanding that in the Philippines, it is legal to kill/murder someone if they are suspected of being involved in the drug trade. Say someone from the Philippines then comes to Canada or the US and they see a drug sale going down and decide to take matters into their own hands. Bodies are left on the street and the offender feels as though they have done their new country a great service. But drug dealer or not, to kill another human being is very illegal and there are some very serious consequences for the crime. Claiming ignorance of the law will not get that person off the hook.
In Leviticus, God explained this concept to His people. You may have unintentionally sinned, but once you are made aware of your guilt, you are accountable and must take certain steps to ensure your atonement.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 (NIV)
It all seems a rather hopeless. Until you keep reading.
and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:24 (NIV)
We have all sinned. But we also have all been justified. Like the Israelites, all we must do is admit our guilt before the Lord.
Our situation isn’t hopeless. It’s quite the opposite, really. Unlike the Israelites, our sacrifice has already been made once and for all. We need only to make our admission and accept the grace.