Thursday, February 7, 2013
Sins of Omission
Lev. 5:1 ¶ When any of you sin in that you have heard a public adjuration to testify and—though able to testify as one who has seen or learned of the matter—does not speak up, you are subject to punishment.
Usually we think of sin as being the bad or the wrong things that we do, but sins are also the things that we don't do. John Wesley used to speak of the sins of "omission." Here in Leviticus this issue is specifically addressed. Clearly not speaking up is viewed as a sin. When a crime is witnessed and yet we fail to testify regarding what we have seen, we are considered a sinner. Punishment was required for this sin of silence.
I wonder at my own personal guilt in this matter. I have to be honest with myself and realize that I am a person of privilege. I was blessed to have been born into a family that loved, supported and nurtured me. I have enjoyed the freedoms of my citizenship. I have been privileged to study and to be educated. I have also had the privilege to travel the world. I can still see the masses of hungry children meeting our train in Calcutta. I can see the dozens of beautiful Russian teenage girls being sold on the side of the street. I can see the women who work the streets of Canton. I can see the pole dancers in Fort Wayne. I see the alcoholics lining up at 9am to purchase rubbing alcohol at the Russian pharmacy. I see the mother and daughter in Kenya - both of whom had been brutally raped. I see a world that is desperate for Jesus. And am I guilty of the sin of omission?
Have I been a silent witness to the atrocities around the world? Or was I given the opportunity to see our world so that I would be a witness? In the Gospel of Luke we are told, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." (Luke 12:48b) How much more so for the follower of Christ who is called into this world to be a reflection of Jesus Christ. Jesus stood up for the woman accused of committing adultery. He became a voice for her when she had no voice. Jesus purposely went and hung out with the marginalized helping to empower them. But it wasn't just social action, it was spiritual action. He went to the women who had been involved in businesses that were less than reputable and set them free. He healed them physically and emotionally and then told them to go and sin no more. We hear this phrase "sin no more" over and over again. Therefore our witness in the world is not simply to help people out of their situation but also to point them in the direction of Jesus Christ. We are to help usher them into the very presence of Jesus.
If we are blind to the needs of the world around us and if we don't respond and minister to those whom God shows us, we will be guilty of the sin of omission. We have all been given a glimpse of the needs in the world. If we have seen the matter and are able to testify but do nothing, we are "subject to punishment."
Lord, you have allowed me be witness to much and it breaks my heart. May it not just break my heart, but may I follow you in obedience to engage with the hurting world around me. Amen.