“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (KJV, James 4:17). Sin isn’t something we like to talk about, or even like to think about too deeply. It makes us uncomfortable and therefore it is much easier to dismiss sin as wrongdoing, a mistake or even an inherent weakness. A sin that is identified as something we do is often called the sin of commission. One sin that we don’t often talk about is the sin that is identified as something we fail to do, called the sin of omission. Such sins may include our failure to follow through with our word or the failure to perform a duty when it is within our responsibility and power to do so. The facts of the matter are that sin cannot be limited to “thou shall not’s” but “thou shall’s” are equally important. Sadly, few people see the evil in the sin of omission.
Though we all know that sin is most dangerous when it is swept under the carpet and therefore not addressed, it is even more frightening to know that we can be doing it and at the same time feel fine, believing that we are the best type of Christian. It is therefore a surprise that the Bible warns us about hypocrisy. Sadly, I believe many will be lost because they did not do the right thing.
LOST BECAUSE THEY DID NOT DO THE RIGHT THING
Generally, when we consider sin in our life we concentrate on the obvious “thou shall not’s." However, in Matthew 5:38-48, our Savior addressed a more full understanding of the very things that make Christians different from the world. He told us what should be the Christian’s reaction to injustice, what we do or say when people trample on our rights. Jesus also talked about how to relate to needy people, especially those unable to pay back. And He taught how to relate to our enemies. From this famous sermon, we can deduce that what makes Christians unique is not our ability to conform to the generally accepted practices of the world, but rather that our singularity lies in the fact that the world will hate us (John 15:18-19).
I believe Jesus identified one of our human weaknesses as the desire to live up to normal expectations. For example, just like non-believers, we tend to love those who love us. Therefore, when doing the normal things that ordinary people do, Christians automatically position themselves as ordinary people. Sadly, I believe this is what many of us want. This kind of thinking and behavior is comfortable and doesn’t challenge any change from within. It is obvious that not all of us want to be identified as a peculiar and royal priesthood (2 Peter 2:9).
A NEW DEFINITION OF SIN?
Being blinded by “the enemy of good” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, 1), such individuals might have reduced righteousness to normal daily life and therefore sin to anything less than normal daily life. In other words they have created a new standard, far below “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). In this statement Jesus seeks to draw our attention to a higher standard than what we see around us.
Therefore, according to Jesus, sin also includes anything that seems normal to the human eye but is offensive to God. This would include sins that are both committed and omitted. This level of understanding can only be gained through a closer walk with God, with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as our guide. A deeper love for God and an innermost desire to please Him is what drives us to this point.
Sins of omission
As we read in the opening lines of this article, the sins of omission are things that we are supposed to do but fail to do them. Sometimes (but not always) the sin of omission will not excite any reaction from those around us. In this instance, this type of sin would look very normal to the carnal mind. Jesus addresses the sin of omission in His parable, found in Matthew 25:31-46. This parable reveals how much value heaven places on unselfish deeds, beyond normal human expectation. In His parable, Jesus denounced the goats for what was probably locally considered as inconsequential behavior. However, in the end and to their surprise and dismay, God placed value on what they considered trivial and therefore, they were exempted from His kingdom, based on their sins of omission.
We can conclude, therefore, that God will not only judge us on how carefully we keep His law, but also on the good things we didn’t do. Like the group described in Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:24-28, most of us probably have something good to boast about, but the question is, have we left good things undone (Matthew 23:23)? Are you refusing to say words of comfort to the discouraged, to pay attention to the needy, or utilize time to tell someone about Christ? Do you still have some channels on your dish, find yourself spellbound by certain ungodly movies or Internet sites? In other words are you still in the company of ungodly friends who have created a standard far below Jesus’ teachings? Is there someone you are refusing to forgive, a talent that you are suppressing, or an opportunity that you are wasting?
The sin of mediocrity
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say: We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (NIV, Luke 17:10).
Many of us have a very faint perception of holiness. Holiness or godliness is like a course every Christian pursues. Unlike many courses studied at college or university, it requires only one standard, understood as pass or fail. Peter said, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1Peter 1:15). Jesus also said: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” and “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Luke 6:36, Matthew 5:48).
God’s standard, requires a 100% score mark (i.e. perfection or completeness). Ellen White puts it this way: “We cannot be half the Lord's and half the world's. We are not God's children unless we are such entirely” (Steps to Christ, 44) (emphasis mine). To think God would even lower His standard is presumptuous. Jesus expects us to strictly abide by any known truth, (John 8:29), so nothing below perfect obedience will be acceptable. In fact, in all our endeavors, no matter the field of life, the standard is remains unchanged.
Therefore, it’s high time we awake from our sins of mediocrity. Jesus, our only perfect example solely did the will of His Father while on earth (John 5:30). Not only that, He also used every available opportunity. He said; “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day” (John 9:4). Thus to Him, every day signifies a call to service. And if Jesus never acted in a mediocre manner, and never taught us to do so, why would He ever entertain mediocrity in His heavenly kingdom?
God’s call is to a higher standard than that which we see around us every day. So while certain sins of omission may be considered inconsequential to those who do not know God, the call to service includes a deeper understanding of our responsibility as bearers of His name. While we seek to know Him and walk in His light, (NASB, Isaiah 58:8) and through the grace of the Holy Spirit that strives in our heart and gives us grace to understand and overcome, (Philippians 2:13), we can have a deeper and more fuller understanding of the glory of God’s character and His plan for us.