Q: #52. If we do something that we don't know is a sin, does God consider it sinning against Him?
A: Honestly, I believe that there are very few sins that we commit that we don’t know are wrong. We are told in (Rom 2:12-16) that God has placed inside each person, the ability to distinguish right from wrong. This is our conscience. Instinctively, we know when we do something wrong.
For instance, we may not know that the Bible speaks out against gossip, swearing, lying, disobeying parents, divorce, etc, but in our consciences, we know these are wrong. God has “written in their (our) hearts” (Rom 2:15) that we are doing wrong. As a result, He will punish those who don’t have or know the written “law” (us= the Gentiles), because we are violating our conscience, or what is written on our heart.
It is said that one of the biggest things that happens to us after we are born again, is that we become more aware of what God considers sin, and just how far we have fallen short of His standards. We come to see just how much of a sinner we truly are. Does this mean that because we weren’t aware earlier, that we were somehow less of a sinner in God’s eyes? I don’t think so… It simply shows us how great God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness truly is, and how desperately we need Jesus’ payment for our multitude of sins. It also shows us how many sins we need to confess and repent.
Let me give you two “real life” examples to consider.
First, how many of you have heard the term “ignorance of the law is no excuse?” This is a saying used by law officers to explain that just because we don’t know that something is against the law, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to be found guilty when we break the law. For instance, if we are going 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, we can get a ticket if caught, even if we don’t know 55 is the law. If we don’t know that it is illegal to make a U-turn in one state, when it is legal where we live, we are guilty if caught. I know 🙂 . This is a good parallel to me; however, with God, we should know that we will ALWAYS be caught.
Second, let’s use the example of a parent and a small child. If a child does something wrong, and doesn’t know it is wrong, what does the parent do? Does the parent excuse the wrong because the child was unaware he did wrong? No… The child is still guilty of doing wrong, and the parent tells them it is wrong, and corrects the behavior. The parent understands that they didn’t know, and as such the correction may be mild since they were unaware, but they were still guilty nonetheless.
I believe that the same principle holds true for the Lord. There may indeed be cases where we truly don’t know we have done wrong, and I believe that God understands this, and His correction may be less as a result, but it does not mean that we are not held accountable for the sin.