“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to do it.”
What kind of apology is this? Is it the mea culpa kind? (Mea culpa is Latin for, “My bad.”) Or is it the kind where we try to justify ourselves? There are two basic kinds of apologies. The first is the kind where we acknowledge that we were wrong, and we seek forgiveness. The second is the kind where we defend ourselves. Generally speaking, the first kind is good, and the second kind is bad. There might be a few exceptions to this generalization, but probably not as many as we would like to think.
Suppose a husband is late coming home. The wife is upset. “Why didn’t you call?” The husband defends himself by saying, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to upset you; I just didn’t think about it.” Translation: I don’t think about you or your needs when I’m not at home. This is not better.
Or suppose a nice man in a blue hat pulls you over for doing forty in a school zone. You say, “I’m sorry officer; I didn’t realize I was in a school zone.” Should he let you off the hook? Absolutely not! Not only were you speeding, but you were also not paying attention. This is worse than regular, old speeding. It reveals a lack of concern for the well-being of others.
Suppose we sin against God or our neighbor in some way that we do not realize is a sin. Are we less guilty because we did not know it was a sin? No! When we hurt people unintentionally, it often reveals that we don’t care enough to consider their wellbeing. When we sin against God unintentionally it reveals that we don’t care enough to know what his commandments are. This is not better. It’s not even less bad.
Our unintentional sins reveal just how deeply sin has corrupted us. Not only do we break God’s commandments, but we often don’t even realize we are doing it. We should know, but we don’t. The problem goes all the way to the core of our human nature. This is just one of the reasons why we cannot be justified by our own actions. We don’t even know how sinful we are, much less amend our ways.
Instead of excusing ourselves of our unintentional sins, we need to repent of them. Pray as David did:
“Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12).
Confess that you are sinful beyond your own comprehension, and flee for refuge to the one who prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The blood of Christ cleanses from all sins, even those we do not know.
The peace of Christ be with you all,