Marie was minding her own business when she noticed the red and blue lights in her rearview mirror. Instinctively she lifted her foot from the gas pedal and glanced at the speedometer. “Oh dear,” she said to herself as she realized how far over the speed limit she was going. Once stopped on the shoulder the officer, a State Trooper, walks up and taps on the window. “I’m sorry officer I wasn’t meaning to speed. Could you let me go with a warning?” She pleads.
Bob stared at the Facebook post in horror. The post showed two shirtless men, one of them with his face, raising glasses of beer behind a sign that read, “Coming Out Party.” The poster of the apparently altered photo was Carl, a classmate in the same dorm. Bob ran to Carl’s room and pounded on the door. “You idiot, take down that post now!” Bob growled to Carl’s grinning face. “Hey man, chill out, I was only joking,” he explains.
Joey had just moved to Springdale, a small town on the edge of the prairie. One warm summer night he was skateboarding around the small downtown area. While practicing moves in the parking lot between McPherson’s Drugs and a defunct five and dime a police car drove by. Joey didn’t think much about it until the Police car pulled into the parking lot and a young officer stepped from the car. Joey rode up to him and said, “Hi, I’m Joey.”
“Where do you live?” the officer asked. Joey explained and the officer nodded. “Give me your skateboard, I’ll drop it off at your home,” the officer commanded.
Joey looked down and mumbled, “did I do something wrong?”
“Skateboarding is illegal downtown and on city streets. If I catch you again I’ll have to write you a ticket and confiscate your board. But tonight I’m giving you a break.”
“Sorry officer, I didn’t know,” Joey explained.
Three stories, three sins, three excuses. It seems to me that we nearing a place where actions and speech only matter if they were intentional. Sin is only counted if we meant to do something. But then I ran up against Leviticus 5. In summary, Leviticus 5 describes several actions that are counted as sin even if the person does so unintentionally or accidentally. The good news in that chapter is that God provides a way for the sin to be forgiven. Also of note in Leviticus 5 is that the guilt of the sin is not imputed until the person realizes they broke God’s law in some way. But once guilt of sin is known it is up to the person to confess the sin and rely on God’s provision for forgiveness. In Leviticus, the person provides a sacrifice according to their means. Now, because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13–14, NASB95)
However, instead of agreeing with God and confessing our sin we pull out one of the three excuses previously offered. In the first story, Marie employs the excuse of “I didn’t mean to” or the defense of intentions. In the second story, Carl counters with “I was only joking” or the defense of misunderstanding. Joey, in the third story, explains that “I didn’t know” which is the defense of ignorance. In some way, each of these defenses is designed to blunt or bury the guilt associated with the sin. Each is saying, “I’m not guilty because…” But none of these are valid excuses in the courtroom nor before the throne of God. Yet, we pull them out of our pocket and throw them on the table of justice so easily.
Our next three articles will examine each defense in turn.