“If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — I John 1:7-9
A successful pastor stated, “It is not a sin to encourage people nor is it a sin to make people feel good about themselves.”
I agree. But we should not just encourage and make people feel good. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.” If we just encourage but fail to correct and rebuke we are disobeying Scripture. And that disobedience is a sin.
If I steal, that is a sin. Yet if I fail to show love to my brothers and sisters in Christ and just keep to myself, that also is sin. The first is a sin of commission; doing something forbidden. The second is a sin of omission; failing to do what is commanded. Both are sins. We often feel very guilty when it comes to sins of commission but we don’t feel the sting of sins of omission. Why is that?
A Sunday School teacher asked her class, “Does anyone know what we mean by sins of omission?” A small girl replied, “Aren’t those the sins we should have committed but didn’t?”
Let’s clarify this issue so no one has that kind of understanding. It is a sin to lie but it is also a sin not to tell the truth when you should. It is a sin to steal from one another, but it is also a sin not to give to another when it is in our power to do good to them. Proverbs 3:27 states, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.”
Many people have an idea that if they don’t do certain things, that they are good Christians. If that’s true our dog is probably the best Christian I ever knew. He doesn’t steal, doesn’t drink liquor or do drugs, and is not mean to people. James 4:17 states, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Right now there are a lot of politicians in big trouble with the Lord. Why? Because they are liars. They are lying about their opponent, lying about what they will do when they get in office, and they are lying to people about their supposed faith. And they are not doing it by accident. In Matthew 12:36, Jesus said, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”
According to Matthew 22:37, one of the greatest commandments is to love the Lord. If we are not doing that we are sinning. Yet many who name the name of Christ rarely pick up their Bible, pray, attend church, partake of Communion, humble themselves before God, confess their sins, or think about God throughout the day.
How do we avoid sins of omission? One way is to avoid tokenism. Tokenism is doing a minimal amount of something so that you can say you have “addressed” that area. If you buy a present for a poor child in a war-torn country at Christmas time that is a very good thing. But you have not satisfied the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself for the entire year! Because you served as an usher in June does not mean you have done your share in the church for the year.
Most of the Ten Commandments are prohibitions. The two Great Commandments are positive: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you fail to actively love God and actively love your neighbor, you are sinning as surely as if you bore false witness. It is not enough to avoid wrong: we must also do right.
Emmett Murphy is a retired Christian church pastor.