U.S. SHOOTS DOWN IRAN JET 290 DEAD
Whatever our feeling about U.S. involvement in the Middle East, this mind-numbing tragedy stained faces with tears and filled minds with questions, many of which may never be answered. How could it happen? What will be the consequence? What will happen to the men who gave the orders to fire? Are they guilty of an act of aggression?
As I considered this headline, other questions came to mind: If a person makes a terrible error without intent to do wrong, does God still call that a sin? Will “I didn’t mean to . . . ” exonerate a person from guilt before God for their actions?
Jesus told a story about a landowner who had to leave his servants in charge of his property. Some took their responsibility seriously. Others did not. Jesus described their fate: “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not . . . do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few” (Luke 12:47-48).
The servant who willfully did wrong deserved his punishment. But the servant who didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong was also punished, not as severely, but nonetheless punished.
In the book of Acts, Peter explained that those who crucified Jesus were ignorant of what they were doing, “ . . . you killed the Prince of life whom God hath raised from the dead . . . through ignorance you did it . . . ” Yet they needed forgiveness or Jesus, when they nailed Him to the cross, would not have prayed, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do.”
According to Leviticus 5:17-19, ignorance is no excuse. When God’s commands are broken, it is sin: “And if a soul sins and commits any of these things which are forbidden by the commandments of the Lord; though he does not know it, yet he is guilty . . . he has certainly trespassed against the Lord.”
Not all sin is committed in ignorance, but whatever the case, Jesus died so sinners could be forgiven. His salvation is for anyone who will come to Him, in faith, repenting of their sin, and believing in Him.
One more question: Does that mean that once a sinner has been forgiven, there will be no consequences or punishment for sin? That depends. God will not punish His children with eternal judgment; His forgiveness is forever. Romans 8 declares that the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ makes us free from the law of sin and death.
However, if civil law is broken, the lawbreaker can expect to serve his sentence, see Romans 13. Besides that, there is God’s law of cause and effect. If I unintentionally break someone’s arm, God will forgive me, and so might the person, but they still must wear a cast for six weeks.
The U.S. government, as a body, may not bring this matter before God, although individuals probably already have done so. Some may be held accountable legally for what has happened. A great many will suffer the consequences - perhaps all of us, should it set off a full-scale war.
But whatever the U.S. does with this major mistake, we should not forget one thing - we make them too, both big and small. The remedy that restores individual peace of mind and satisfies a sin-hating God is not “I didn’t mean to . . . ” but, “You are right, I am wrong. Please forgive me . . . ” accompanied by faith in the good news that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover any and every sin we commit, intentional or not.