Unintentionally. There’s the adverb, repeated several times during the directions given by Moses, in Leviticus 4 and 5 (4:2,13,22,27; 5:14), as he’s detailing how to properly respond to God with a sin or guilt offering. In addition, “even though he is unaware of it” (5:3,4) and, “even though he does not know it” (5:17) extend the meaning of unintentionally as Moses continues on throughout this passage. To do something unintentionally means to do it without deliberation or on purpose, which is, in many cases, our “go to” response whenever we’ve committed sin. “I didn’t intend to offend you,” “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” “I didn’t realize that was wrong.” How many times have we said these words, either in our minds or out loud for another to hear?
Well, according to our holy God, whether our intention was to sin, or not, we’re guilty, nonetheless. First, and foremost, against Him we’ve sinned (as David confesses in Psalm 51:4) and, second to that tier, is the sin committed against another. Although making the biblical case that unintentional sin is worthy to make us guilty before God seems simple here, it is the awareness aspect that Scripture reveals that made an impact for me.
Following the verses cited above, the phrase, “when he/they are made aware of the sin he/they committed,” follows soon afterwards. Made aware of. Hmm. How so, I wonder? Who made these aggressors aware of their unintentional sins? Unfortunately, Scripture doesn’t tell us directly; however, I’d like to make some assumptions that seem plausible. There are truly only two options as answers: God and man.
God’s methods of communicating to us that we’ve transgressed His commands are mainly by speaking to us through His Word and/or convicting us of our trespasses by His Spirit that dwells in us. This ought to go without saying, but as the wordy woman that I am, I’ll share anyhow: for God to speak truth to His children through the Bible, we must be in the Bible to hear it. It is astounding how many Christ lovers, readily claiming to be in love with our Creator and Sustainer, disregard daily communion with Him by means of reading Scripture. More simply, for those who aren’t aware of what His commands entail, we are more like the Israelites of way back that had no access to the written Word; although since we do have it today, we are in a sad state if we’re to claim ignorance when we sin unintentionally. That being said, the response that our sin was unintentional when committed becomes less acceptable when His law is not only written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15, Hebrews 10:16), but processing through our minds as we take it in on a regular basis.
Now onto man. This method God has used since Moses’ time, as he revealed the commands of God as given to him to share with others while he spent forty days, twice, up on Mount Sinai receiving them. It is our unbridled duty, as Christians, to confront and shed light on the sins taking place in our own lives as well as those in our lives. This, for me, is where, when reading that the transgressors “were made aware of” their sins, the message came from. From the words, originally spoken and written by God, but again repeated by man when addressing sin in others. To perform this act of confrontation is sadly bypassed in our current culture because it’s not nice. To call someone out in their sin is unkind, unloving, judgmental, or considered rude. I object to this line of thinking and I do so because the Bible supports the opposite. Nowhere in Scripture does God give us the idea that avoidance or apathy to sin is acceptable.
Certainly, we can confront another with sinful heart motivations where we are intentionally trying to offend, shame, or hurt them. However, when our intentions are to enlighten them, with humility, in hopes that they’ll be enabled to repent and be restored, this is godly love. It’s everywhere throughout the Bible. Confronting sin, not only in ourselves, but doing so in others. God can, and will at His pleasure, utilize us to make others aware of their sin. He can, and will at His pleasure, utilize us to take the unintentional sins and make them known when they’re committed. Perhaps we can glean from these verses in Leviticus the desire, courage, and conviction to rid our own little spheres of those who claim to unintentionally sin against God and man. Instead, cultivating one that has a sometimes painful and humble awareness of when sin is abound, encouraging loving confrontations and God honoring repentance.