What Is The Difference Between a “Sin” and a “Mistake?”

What Is The Difference Between a “Sin” and a “Mistake?”

Which of these is not like the other one? Hmmmm . . .
Which of these is not like the other one? Hmmmm . . .

“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, 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 are 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.

Seems like far too often, we hear about bullies at school — children who deal with their own issues by taking their pain out on another child. Is that a sin? Or is it a mistake? If the bully knew a better way to deal with their pain than causing pain for another, would they not do so?

Those who tried and crucified Jesus thought they were punishing a man for claiming to be God. They simply did not realize that they were one with Jesus, and in torturing and killing him, they were also torturing and killing themselves. Had they known that, they likely would have made a different choice.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Lee . . . what about when people DO deliberately set out to hurt others? What about people who know something is wrong and do it anyway? What about sins like lying, stealing or abuse?”

Even “bad intentions” are born from people acting on bad information. They are still errors to be corrected, mistakes to be forgiven.

If you are a “liar” and you could get the outcomes that you wanted without lying, wouldn’t you do it? If you are a thief, but you could get what you want or need without taking from another person or risking jail time, wouldn’t you do it?

Domestic abuse? I’ll bet money that if an abuser really understood the damage they are causing they would choose differently. If a father really knew that when his daughter sees him hit her mother, that someday the same daughter is likely to be abused herself, would he not think twice? Or if he imagined that his child one day could grow up to walk into a movie theatre and start shooting strangers, would he stop?

More fundamentally, if he knew a better way — a nonviolent way — to deal with his own pain and those he loves . . . would he not use it?

Use this tool in your life. When someone offends you or hurts you, say to yourself: “Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Ask God to show you the pain behind the behavior. Pray that God heals that pain and shows them a different way to move through the world. A better way.

Spiritually, sins and mistakes are treated the same way: with love and forgiveness. They both are born not from bad intention but from bad information.

At the end of the day, we are all human — with pains to be healed, souls to be restored. We all want our mistakes to be forgiven.

So be forgiving.

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I write things! I'm grateful that God allowed "A Message From God" to come through my fingers, and more books and stuff are on the way!

2 thoughts on “What Is The Difference Between a “Sin” and a “Mistake?”

  1. But what if the person knows and deliberately does bad things? He even threatens us that he’s going to keep on doing it. Would you still consider that as a mistake?

    1. This will be difficult to understand or accept, but . . . yes.

      Here’s the thing. Let’s just say that this person believes and respects Jesus (don’t know if he does or not, but let’s say he does). Jesus teaches us that “As you do unto the least of these, you do also unto me.” So as far as Jesus is concerned, whatever this person is doing to you, he’s also doing to Jesus.

      Now, if this person KNEW that — I mean really understood, “Hey, I am actually mistreating Jesus right now,” then he probably would choose differently. Or, even more fundamentally, if he realized that we are all one — and that in mistreating you, he is mistreating himself — who would intentionally mistreat themselves, if they REALLY understood that’s what they are doing?

      He wouldn’t. He would do unto you, as he wants to be done unto.

      Now, as for you: Is any of this true? You must pray on it and ask God for guidance. But from a practical standpoint, I find it MUCH easier to forgive mistakes. It doesn’t mean you have to accept abuse, and if necessary, distance yourself from him. But for the sake of your own spirit and soul, apply the teaching of “Forgive him, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Then you should pray for him — his health, that God heals his pain, that God shows him a different way.

      YOU will grow spiritually through this experience.YOU will learn to see beyond the bad behavior to the pain behind it. And God will perfect LOVE in you as you practice forgiveness and unconditional love.

      I hope that helps!

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