A few weeks ago, in the process of writing a sermon on the fourth chapter of Leviticus, there were a few ideas I was processing that didn’t quite make the final draft of that week’s sermon. They were good thoughts, but didn’t quite fit and had to be axed. Instead of deleting these thoughts forever, though, I decided they would be good to share in this format. So here goes…
Leviticus 4 deals with the fourth sacrifice, the Sin Offering. It’s a ritual about what to do when you’ve done something wrong, but didn’t mean to. How do you respond when you’ve harmed someone, even if it was unintentional? What’s the godly way to handle our mistakes?
Well, Leviticus is pretty clear that when you realize you you’ve done wrong, hurt someone, upset the social order of the community, or violated the ways of God’s kingdom, you have to make it right…it can’t go unfixed. As the people of God—having been liberated from the metaphorical ‘Egypts’ of our lives—we must be people who are fixers and liberators when other injustices are perpetrated (and especially when we are the perpetrators). Everything we do matters, so when we err, we must make things right.
Now, this leads to a few important and practical thoughts. First, if everything matters and no sins are un-impactful, including our unintentional ones, then Leviticus 4 invites us, as the people of God, to be more aware of our influence on the world. We are to think about others’ feelings, notice how we affect the world around us, and be more aware of the harm we’re causing. The Sin Offering invites us to notice our impact—which is what Mandy and I are constantly trying to help our kids do: to be more aware of others, notice when they’ve done wrong, and then make amends—but it’s crazy how bad adults are at self-awareness as well.
Let’s be more aware of our effect on others, and be willing to make it right when we’ve done wrong. I, unfortunately, had this opportunity a few weeks ago. I had said something wrong—something that offended—and didn’t know it. But once I learned of my hurtful language, I knew I had to swallow my pride, say I was sorry, and make things right with this person. That’s what it means to be a part of God’s new community.
Then, secondly, Leviticus 4’s 'Sin Offering' reminds us that if we’ve been hurt, wronged, or offended, we should be honest and let the offender know they’ve hurt us. If they haven’t apologized yet, it might mean they’re just not a nice person. But it also might mean they don’t know they’ve offended us. If someone hurts us, let’s say something and try to make the relationship right again. Let’s not let our pain fester into an eventual blow-up. If there are conflicts in y(our) community, let’s name them, deal with them, and then get on with the work of being God’s liberated and liberating people of blessing for our world.