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Articles:
Ethics, Morals, Behavior

Sin of Omission
by Ed Vasicek

I remember a very successful pastor addressing the subject of preaching.  He stated, "It is not a sin to encourage people. It is not a sin to make people feel good about themselves."

I remember thinking at the time that he was right, and he is. Yet it can be wrong to encourage, for example, if we are encouraging instead of doing something more pressing. 2 Timothy 4:2 reads, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." If I merely encourage, but fail to correct and rebuke (terms which address the negative side of preaching), I am disobeying Scripture. And that disobedience is sin.

If I steal, that is a sin. Yet if I fail to show love to my brothers and sisters in Christ and just keep to myself, that, too, is sin. The first is a sin of commission, doing something forbidden. The second is a sin of omission, failing to do what is commanded. Both are violations of God's will. Both are sins. Yet I admit that it seems we tend to feel very guilty when it comes to sins of commission, but it seems we don't feel the sting of sins of omission.  I don't know why that is.

The very most important commandment is to love the Lord with basically all we have. If we are not actively attempting to do that, we are sinning, and seriously at that! Yet many who name the name of Christ rarely pick up their Bibles, pray, attend church, partake of Communion, humble themselves before God, confess their sins, or think about God throughout the day.

Jeremiah the prophet wrote: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) I agree with Jeremiah not only because I trust God's Word, but also because I have been a pastor for 20 years and a human being for 42. Our hearts deceive our own selves, and sins of omission, I think, are its specialty.

Sins of omission usually boil down to matters of priority, connectedness, and balance, and our deceitful hearts work well in all three arenas.

Priority means what we put first. If God has certain plans for us, say to lead a flock group, but we are involved in other good things—but not God's best—we don't have time or energy to lead that flock group. Instead, we are busy in perhaps a wholesome activity that is keeping us from God's best. Regaining control over the arena of priority means seeking God's face and direction. Then it means putting God's will first, seeking not only what He allows, but what He desires. (If you do not know how to seek God's will, let me refer you to Experiencing God by Blackaby and King).

Connectedness is one of the our hearts' (and the devil's) best schemes.  In the arena of connectedness, we choose (I think it is most often a choice) to ignore logical consequences of our action. Perhaps a mom, who is working full time, concludes that one of her children genuinely needs her home more frequently. She vows to reduce her career to part time status. Then the couple decides to buy a new, more expensive house and are unrealistically optimistic that the extra income will come from somewhere. The time comes when she had planned to cut back her hours, but now their financial situation will not allow it.

Sometimes this shows itself in a person feeling guilty about not fulfilling a responsibility (a dad who works too much, a church member who attends irregularly, etc.), but then the person subconsciously sabotages things so that he/she is forced to maintain the current lifestyle. The guilt is gone because he/she has "no choice."

"I know I should be home more often, but the overtime will help put Susie through college." Well, folks, if you "know," then you should do! "I know that I shouldn't watch an R movie, but..."  But what? No, no, no. Life is connected. The devil knows it, your deceitful heart knows it, and really you know it. We must stop the pretending. Either admit your unwillingness to make the change and go on, or cultivate things so that you can make the change. But don't claim you want to change and then orchestrate life so that the change becomes impossible.

Balance, the third arena, means doing some of all the right things, but not in proper proportion. To put it simply, if we are doing too much of one thing, we are not doing enough of other things.

Of the three arenas, this is the hardest to pinpoint because none of us can grasp what the ideal balance is. The reason is simple: it varies from person to person.

The best advice I can give you in this arena is to avoid tokenism. Tokenism is doing a minimal amount of something so that you can say you have "addressed" that area. For example, if you buy a present for a poor child in a war torn country (Operation Christmas Child), that is a very good thing. But you have not satisfied the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself for the entire year! Because you have served as an usher in the month of June does not mean you have done your share in the church for the year.

Another piece of advice in this area is that of cultivating routines and obligations. By ministering in a way that requires routine and responsibility (teaching a class, helping with Awana, participating in LEAP 2000, etc.), you can "build in" some balance into your life. By getting involved in recreational activities/the arts, planning family times, and getting to know fellow Christians (through flock groups, for example), you will guarantee some level of balance.

Whereas most of the 10 Commandments are prohibitions, the 2 Great Commandments are positive: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...," and "your neighbor as yourself." If you fail to actively love God and actively love your neighbor, you are sinning as surely as if you bore false witness. It is not enough to avoid wrong: we must also do right.

Pastor Ed

Reprinted from the October 1999 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.

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Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA
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