If someone, without being aware of it, commits such a sin . . . . the priest shall then make atonement for the fault which was unwittingly committed, and it will be forgiven (Leviticus 5:17-18).
As I read this passage in Leviticus, my thoughts raced back to 1972. I came to Christ in my early twenties after a life steeped in immorality, and from the moment of my conversion, I determined to avoid even the near-occasion of sin.
And at first, I thought myself successful.
However, a few months later I asked God to show me any sin still lingering in my life. I expected a clean report. At worst, perhaps a minor sin or two. But what He unveiled was so dramatic, so disturbing, so disillusioning, I still remember it thirty-eight years later.
Attitudes and thoughts, words and behaviors surged through my memory. Wave after wave, the images ebbed and flowed. I slumped from my knees prostrate before God, ashamed and bewildered at how many things I’d done wrong – just within the past twenty-four hours.
I think people have an uncanny ability of self-deception, to stand in a sewer convinced it‘s clover, to look at darkness believing it is sunlight. The prophet Jeremiah knew the phenomenon: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Psalmist asked God, “Probe me, God, know my heart . . . see if my way is crooked, then lead me in the ancient paths” (Psalm 139:23-24). And St. Augustine confessed, “I had known [my iniquity] but deceived myself, refused to admit it, and pushed it out of my mind” (Confessions, book VIII).
With slippery ease, we convince ourselves of the clover or the light, never recognizing our true condition. That is why we are prudent to regularly ask the Holy Spirit to show us our sins – especially those hidden from our eyes.
And prepare to fall prostrate.