Sunday Evening Sentences (Part 5)
February 19, 2012
Lots of things I could write, but I have Leviticus 4 on my mind. I’ll come back to that in a second.
Leslie is watching Downton Abbey and I’m blocking it out with headphones and blogging. We’re both happy.
Dear ESPN, I don’t care about basketball… so call me when hockey playoffs start. Thanks, ~jesse
Oh, what’s that? no hockey on TV in Kansas City? Nevermind. No hockey playoffs for me.
It did actually snow in KC this winter.
I’ve built a desk since I last wrote some words. It looks like this —
An update on that last post, most of the stuff at Mars Hill is less than it was originally made out to be in the particular case that was “newsworthy”. Even Slate wrote a piece on it, and Mars Hill gave with a lengthy response online. A couple of odd things that remain, the person that Slate talked to was their PR and Marketing guy…..which is an non-traditional job at a church, and not the ideal face for a church discipline issue. Also, the staff responsible for the decisions that led to the issue have been removed. This is where the church is supposed to be different as I understand the gospel. When you make a mistake in the financial world and lose money…you get fired. But when your pastor doesn’t fulfill his role as shepherd of your spirit in the way he should, there is a remedy in forgiveness and a way to reconciliation. There are things which disqualify a person from proclaiming the gospel with integrity as a leader, but over eager enforcement of the rules isn’t one of them that I can find. So here’s the transition;
I was searching for the word “hidden” early today and got sidetracked in Leviticus 4. The entire chapter is the prescription of what to do when a sin is committed through ignorance and it becomes known later. It’s an unusual situation to be in, to be guilty of something ex post facto and have to make atonement for the thing you didn’t know was wrong when you did it. Here’s what the text says, “If one of the 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…”.
Even more surprising is that there are 4 levels of culpability in this chapter; the high priest, the whole nation of Israel, a ruler, and a common person. The higher up this scale, the costlier the atonement that has to be made. The high priest must sacrifice an unblemished bull, the entire nation a bull, a ruler a male goat without blemish, and the common person a female goat (or a female lamb if he can’t afford it). The result being that the more you “ought” to know the law, the stiffer the penalty for being unaware when you have violated it.
Matthew Henry is helpful to point out that these “are supposed to be sins committed through ignorance. If they were done presumptuously, and with an avowed contempt of the law and the Law-maker, the offender was to be cut off, and there remained no sacrifice for the sin (number 15:30)”.
The point I’m getting to, the one that has held my attention through this, is that when we sin against one another it isn’t always immediately recognized. I can hurt Leslie with words that I said without knowing the harm it caused her. But as soon as she tells me, and my guilt becomes obvious, my response isn’t to play a “get out jail card” on the basis that I didn’t mean to hurt her. No, I have to recognize that even though I know the law and know her, I can still hurt her in our life together. The move I make is bring peace, thankfully not through sacrificing an animal but by looking to the sacrifice of Jesus’s body and blood.
So when our leaders sin against us, there is a stiffer penalty, but still a way forward because God has provided one. There is a difference between sinning with a high hand, and sinning without knowing. When we find out that we’re guilty of a past sin, it’s just as real as a sin in the present. We can still benefit from reading Leviticus because our Father wrote it, and he’s always telling us about himself.
Matthew Henry has some good things to say about how to apply the remedy for the whole nation to when an entire church is guilty of sin, but that’ll be for another Sunday.