There was a time when a cliché that was included in most prayers was “Father, forgive us our sins whether by omission or commission.” When I was a child my thought was, “It looks like it would be enough to just say, “Forgive us our sins.” As time has gone by, I have seen that there may have been a deeper wisdom than was apparent in including the thought, “Whether by omission or commission.” Another prayer that I am reminded of is that one brother who would often pray, “Help us to be better in the future than we have not been in the past.” Again, there was more depth to the statement than appeared on the surface.
A case in point is in the papers today. A mother whose live-in boyfriend abducted her two children, a girl and a boy, did not respond to their screams for help although she was in the next room where she had been asleep. The little girl was killed and dumped in a remote spot. The boy was left for dead in a cemetery, but survived. He later identified his attacker. His mother purportedly admitted to him that she heard their cries, but was afraid to respond. She did not even report the abduction until much later. If the reports are true she could have save the girl’s life and the boy from an almost fatal beating. She is to be tried for “injury to a child by omission.”
Not only are we accountable for what we do that is a direct violation of God’s Word, we are also accountable for the good we could do, but neglect to do. This puts a whole new focus on Christian responsibility. We often feel if we don’t smoke, drink, cuss, beat our wives (or husbands), commit adultery, lie, steal, cheat, or use God’s name in vain, we are all right. But what about the positive good we could do that is left undone? Almost any congregation presents countless opportunities to its members to do well. Every program and almost every event offers such opportunities for good. Some members eagerly rise to the opportunity, but many do not. And yet they feel no guilt. As long as they are not active in doing bad things, they feel no sin has been committed.
In James 4:17 the Bible says, “To him therefore that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” In the judgment, some of those banished from Christ will be told it is because of what they have not done to the least of His brethren.
It is a sobering thought that in God’s mind sin is sin. Sin separates us from God, now and eternally. It would be a shame to be meticulous in avoiding sins of commission and lose out on an eternal reward because of sins of omission.