What is the difference between a ‘sin’ and a ‘mistake?’

God treats them both the same way, Smith writes.

Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com | 10/26/2015, 1:38 p.m.
God treats them both the same way, Smith writes.
Lee Eric Smith

“What is the difference between a sin and a mistake?”

From time to time, I’ll post that question on the “A Message From God” Facebook page (www.facebook.com/amessagefromgod). Of course, I have my own thoughts, and generally get into those after my readers respond. For many of them it comes down to intention vs. ignorance.

“When you know something is wrong against God and do it anyway it is a sin. A mistake could be an error in judgment,” one commenter posted.

“Sin is deliberate rebellion against God's commandments and a mistake is a bad choice in judgment that turns to a sinful act,” wrote another.

And I get it. Ever since we first heard the story of Adam, Eve and “The Original Sin,” we have been taught that to willfully — let alone defiantly — disobey God is sinful. To know something is wrong and proceed anyway fits that bill.

Mistakes? That’s different. Your intentions can be pure, but you could be acting on bad information. Or you might be acting with good intentions on good information and things just don’t work out because . . . well, because we’re human and we make mistakes.

But in God’s eyes, are they REALLY different? I don’t think so.

We all make mistakes, and we all can agree on that. Likewise, if you believe Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So apparently making mistakes and committing sins are things we are simply destined to do from the cradle to the grave.

But, to me the REAL proof that sins and mistakes are no different really boils down to the fact that God treats them the same way. They are both to be forgiven.

“Forgive them Father, they know not what they do,” Jesus said as he hung on the cross, moments from death. Think about that for a second.

An angry mob lynched Jesus. They’ve cursed him, spat upon him, mocked him, beaten him and stabbed him with a spear. They are murdering him, and they quite excited about it. And how does Jesus look at them? Metaphorically speaking, he shakes his head.

They’re misguided. They actually think they’re doing the right thing.

In the simple phrase, “Forgive them, they know not what they do,” Jesus gives us an incredible and powerful tool for forgiveness. He’s saying that even the most unforgivable actions come not from intention, but from ignorance.

Nobody actually sets out to do “the wrong thing.” Nobody wakes up and says, “Let me deliberately do harm to those I love.” Nobody moves through their day seeking out ways to fail, whether it’s failing in school, in relationships, at work or in life.

The difficult truth is this: Each of us — ALL of us — are doing the best we know how, given our upbringing, our life experiences, our view of the world. We set our sights on a goal, and we move in the direction of that goal as best we understand how. And life is an ever-unfolding cycle of trial and error. When we learn better, we do better.