Ivy tells me that in Judaism, you can sin without knowing it, which frightens the heck out of me.
In Christianity you have to know what you’re doing in order to sin. It’s the difference between an orthodoxy (believing right) and an orthopraxy (doing right.) You see that most explicitly when Jesus says that if you nurture anger, you’ve committed murder in your heart.
But according to Ivy, if you’re Jewish and you buy a package labeled Kosher, you call the manufacturer and verify that it’s Kosher, and then eat it assuming it’s Kosher, but it’s not, then you’ve sinned against the dietary laws.
In the book I’m going to review later this week, I came across a distinction I’d never seen in a Christian book (which is saying something!) that if you fail to respond to God’s prompting in a loving way,that’s not a sin. That’s an imperfection.
Sitting at the bus stop while reading, I bolted up and took notice. Really? You mean–those aren’t sins?
I’d considered those things “sins of omission.” But now I find they’re not sins at all.
So here’s the new lineup, as I understand it:
- You punch your brother in the face: sin of commission.
- You notice your brother parking in a no-parking zone and keep that information to yourself so his car gets towed: sin of omission
- Your brother is having a bad day, and you could say something to cheer him up, but you don’t: imperfection
Or to give another example, failing to file your income tax would be a sin against the United States Of America (we call it a crime) whereas failing to vote is merely apathy. Imperfection.
God deserves perfection, but let’s face facts: he’s not going to get it from me. I’d like to give it to him, but there are limits to what I can do, how often I will respond. How often my cranky self or my tired self will take over against The Spiritual Perfect Self I Was Designed To Be. (TSPSIWDTB has not, in fact, shown her face around here since I was six months old and spit out my pastina.)
But those aren’t crimes. They’re failures to become a better person, to be God’s hands to others — but they’re not crimes.
All of a sudden, it’s more like weeding a garden than I thought. (Thank you for that metaphor, St. Catherine.) Life is good! There’s plenty to work on, but life is good.