Thursday, September 27, 2007

Accidentally filthy

Reflections on Leviticus

Leviticus 4 gives directions for the sin offering. As in the burnt offering (chapter 1) and the fellowship (or peace) offering (chapter 3), the blood has to be sprinkled, but there is a slight difference – the priest must now dip his finger into the blood (v6). This offering, unlike the burnt offering, is made for a specific sin, and the directions seem to be focusing on making it clear that sin is ugly and requires ugly things to atone for it.

Something else that jumped out at me is that this sacrifice to be given “when anyone sins unintentionally” (v1). Accidental sins are still sins. We’re no less dirty because we "didn’t mean to.” We are all responsible for our actions, and we have to own up to the fact that we offend God through the little things we do every day, sometimes without realizing it.

It’s said that Martin Luther was gripped with fear when he understood that if the greatest commandment was to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, then the greatest transgression was to fail to do that. Every day in countless ways I fail in that whether I intend to or not, and each of those sins is a vile act that required a messy sacrifice of most holy blood.

Next, it’s interesting that different instructions are given for the sins of different people. The first in the list is also the most elaborate – the sin of the priest requires that the curtain of the sanctuary be cleansed as well as the most choice part of the animal be burned. Then there is this – the rest of the valuable animal must be discarded like trash. The sin of the religious leader dirtied the very sanctuary and even the carcass of the sin offering.

Every believer sins, but history has shown that the sin of the religious leader is more dangerous than that of those in the pews. Rarely have churches been damaged by sin among the congregation like they have by the sin of the pastor and leaders. Those with the most power and influence, as well as the privilege to stand in the name of God, have a heavy burden to bear – both leading the church in the kingdom work and in guarding their hearts.

Those of us in the pews have a dual burden as well – to hold them responsible and to support them in their struggles.

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