If we think with some sophistication, then we will quickly realize that great injustices can be committed without actually committing an offense. It is not good enough simply to say, “I’ve done nothing wrong,” as if the sum total of our duty is to refrain from wrongdoing. To omit the doing of righteousness is to commit unrighteousness. To put it in more theological terms, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. Proverbs 28:4 uses this framework with effective imagery:
“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them.”
The principle here can be illustrated in several different ways. First, if we see a crime that can be stopped or a situation where we can help and do nothing, can we be said to be innocent? What if there is a fire in a house and we could easily call the fire department from our cellular phone, but we decide that we have better things to do and leave? Can we use the logic that we did nothing wrong, because we did not start the fire? Very few people would make that excuse, because we intuitively know that there are sins of omission. We have a responsibility for one another.
Here is another example, what if we know that there is an oppressive ideology that undergirds a society and we do nothing about it? Can we say that we are innocent? What if we benefit from this unjust ideology, because those in power make it seem that the situation is just the way it is and should be? Race, economics, and a whole host of social issues can be look at from this lens. Is not the history of our world one that pretty much says that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and that is the way it is supposed to be? I believe there are many imbalances of power that are never addressed, because the change of the status quo would disadvantage those in power or relative power. Therefore, for the Christian just to go with the flow would be a sin of omission. To put it another way, it would be to abet injustice. At this point, I must say that the situation is complex; ethics always is, but a conversation on these things is long over due.
Examples can be multiplied, particularly because the greatest commandment of God is to love. To neglect this calling is to omit the something grave. Therefore, all Christians should seek to have a mentality that says the doing of righteousness is as important as not doing unrighteousness. Without positive fruit, the roots are dead, which means there is no life. More seriously, to forsake the words of God is to praise wickedness. But to keep the law is to contend against evil.Tags: proverb 28:4, sin of commission and omission, Theology