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Way Back When I Didn’t Know Any Better

Way Back When I Didn’t Know Any Better

If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD’S commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. Leviticus 4:27-28

When I was in medical school, I required a relatively minor surgery, which led to my first opioid exposure. When I took those first pills, it was euphoric, and I wanted more. That’s how an addiction starts, but I simply had no idea of the destructive force lurking in me. I should have seen the problem when I asked for a refill that I didn’t need. Still, I was largely ignorant of the potential consequences. A few years later then, after my addiction blossomed and first came to light, I had to go to outpatient treatment, but still, most people were remarkably understanding. My boss was nonjudgmental, and my career was largely unaffected. My wife was hurt, but also quick to forgive. Everyone recognized that I’d unintentionally gotten caught up in opioids. You made a mistake. It’s fixable. Turn it around and everything will be OK.

Things though, were very different with my last relapse. In that relapse, I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew I could lose my career and family, but I did it anyway. With pills in hand, I felt God telling me to stop. It was with rebellious intention however, that I looked God in the face and took them anyway. I’m going to do what I want, even if I know it’s wrong. The consequences were very different that time as I lost my job and pushed my marriage and career to the brink of disaster.

Intentional versus unintentional rebellion. That’s the theme of today’s passage. In it, God provided instructions for the sacrifice required by the one who unintentionally sins, but then realized his (or her) mistake. When God’s people recognized their iniquity, they were to stop the behavior, repent, offer a sacrifice, and all would be forgiven.

What about intentional sin? The passage doesn’t explicitly say, but I think the implication is clear – Those who intentionally sin, simply are in no condition to repent. The one who accidentally fails and recognizes his error can turn around. The one who purposefully goes the wrong way though has willfully chosen defiance. This individual is in trouble, having placed himself in opposition to God. He knows his error and yet he continues.

This is a terrible place to live. In willful disobedience to God, we can expect none of his mercy, but rather we should expect dreadful consequences. God is quick to forgive when we repent, but when we willfully defy him, we should quake in fear.

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