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Michael Hyatt has penned an excellent post on this very topic as he defines The Difference Between a Sin and a Mistake. Hyatt comments:
"...when people refer to this kind of behavior as a mistake rather than a sin, they are either consciously or unconsciously evading responsibility.It is rare these days in our society that we discuss sin outside of a church environment (and even that seems to be not that common, either). It is an uncomfortable topic and most of us feel uneasy in making judgments about what is and is not considered sinful.
Why? Because of the fundamental difference between the two. Many people assume they are synonymous. They are not.
The term “mistake” implies an error in judgment—something done unintentionally. For example, a legitimate mistake might be:
- Turning onto a one-way street, going the wrong way.
- Pouring salt into your coffee, thinking it was sugar.
- Mistyping a web address and ending up on a porn site.
These could all be legitimate mistakes. They happen because we get distracted or careless. But a sin is more than a mistake. It is a deliberate choice to do something you know is wrong.
The word “transgression” is even stronger. It implies deliberately stepping over a boundary. The word “trespass” is similar. It implies entering onto another person’s property without permission.
Unlike a mistake, we choose to sin. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for it—and the consequences that follow. This is the measure of maturity and marks the transition from adolescence into adulthood. It is the foundation of a civilized society." (You can read Michael Hyatt's complete post here.)
From a Christian standpoint, sin means to miss the mark of God's perfection. We can sin through thought, word or deed and we can sin intentionally or by not really caring what God thinks. As Hyatt so adeptly shared, a mistake comes by accident but a sin is birthed through deliberate choice.
When we sin (which we all do every day), we need to admit this, own up to our transgressions and change our ways. Until we fully grasp the depth of our wrongs against God and embrace the ability to grieve our own sin, it will be difficult for us see real growth in our lives. We will continue to exhibit the same negative patterns of behavior until we honestly and openly address the heart issues that caused us to do what we did in the first place.
Though we all sin, the good news is that we don't have to continue in the same behaviors that harm others, ourselves and our relationship with God. Jesus Christ came to make us free from our sin in this life and the life to come. To learn more about how your sin can be forgiven and how you can start a new life today, please click here. If you already consider yourself to be a Christian yet continue to struggle with the same sins over and over, please click here.
Pastor Tim Keller says the gospel tells us that "we are far more wicked than we ever dared believe, yet more loved than we ever dared hope." May we all experience this reality that our sin is very real...but so is our Savior.