Regular nibbles from the Bible. . .come for a bite, leave with an appetite

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight. (Psalm 19:14, MSG)

Friday, February 8, 2013

IF A TREE FALLS. . . The Nature of Sin (Leviticus 4-5)

"If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" The questions carries implications for observations and reality and how they are connected.

In Leviticus 4, the question could be asked, "If a person sins and there is no one to see it, is it a sin?"  The answer is an unquivocal "yes."  

"They become guilty even though no one is aware of it." 

No one--except God, that is. And He's the one we're sinning against in the first place. 

What scares me even more about the passage is the context. God is speaking to "the whole congregation." 

Later in the chapter, he mentions specific individuals who might sin:
  • "anyone"
  • a priest
  • a leader
  • any member of the community
So any individual who sins is guilty. They don't even have to know it  is a sin. No one is excused.  (Ignorance of the law is no excuse, even in God's court.)

The idea of "corporate" sin makes me uneasy. Again, I'm too American to think I will automatically agree with everyone else. 

Is corporate sin a matter of everyone passing an unjust law, a jury convicting an innocent man, a nation waging an unjust war?

Or is more a matter of individuals closing our eyes to injustice? In Leviticus 5:1, God says, "you sin by not stepping up and offering yourself as a witness to something you’ve heard or seen in cases of wrongdoing."

We don't like to bother in our neighbor's affairs. If we see a wife who appears abused . . . a child who's been bullied. . .a friend pocket a candy bar at the convenience store. . . what do we do? What should we do?

In my situation here, it means speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves. It doesn't even have to be mistreatment. It can be someone who is calling for help and is being ignored (well, that's mistreatment). Someone who has fallen or who is going into diabetic shock. A dozen things may happen in any given day.

Which is the reason why I speak up when my needs are ignored . . . because I speak for those unable to speak for themselves.

Where does reporting wrongdoing end and grace begin? How do we decide? 

But neither ignorance nor silence are acceptable. 

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