Our mistakes haunt us. The mom who was late to the game where her child got hurt, the grandfather who lost thousands to a swindle, the teen who glanced down and wrecked his father’s car. These unhappy people live with the guilt of their unintentional mistakes. We are limited and fallible as well as sinful. Christ died for all our imperfections. Some of you who love theology (and I do) may be tut-tutting right now. “No, indeed!” you say, “Christ died for our SINS, the very essence of the Gospel,” but today I want to reflect upon this: He also died for our mistakes.
I’m reading through the Bible this year, and from my current perch in Deuteronomy, it has become clear to me that there were no Old Testament sacrifices for deliberate sins. There were only punishments. Knock out your neighbor’s tooth? No goat released into the wilderness for you – pony up your own tooth (Lev. 24:20)! Steal your neighbor’s ox? No dove divided for your sins – you give your neighbor five replacements (Ex. 22:1). Disrespect your parents? No lamb on the altar for you – you die (Lev. 20:9)! Severe, yes. Deserved, yes. A low view of my own sin causes me to think of Christ as an animal sacrifice, making symbolic atonement. Not so. Whenever I sin deliberately, Christ is not the lamb being slaughtered in my place, He is the MAN being slaughtered in my place.
If deliberate sin deserved a punishment rather than a sacrifice, what was all that gore in the Tabernacle about? The answer is that those sacrifices were for our MISTAKES. (Some of them were also for our so-called ‘good deeds,’ for our worship, our fellowship, our blessings.) All those sin offerings were for “unintentional sins,” failures that turned up as regrets, ignorance that resulted in harm, blunders that were revealed after the fact (see, for example, Lev. 4:1-3, Num. 15:22-29). Those sacrifices atoned for our fallenness, not for our evil.
As human beings, not one part of us is clean enough to stand before a holy God. Anything which makes us less than whole, less than His perfection, things like sickness and death, weakness and mistakes, requires a sacrifice of cleansing. Indeed, all that constitutes our finest offering, all our righteousness, is like a filthy garment in the presence of God (Is. 64:6). To this end, Christ makes continual – and effective – intercession for us (Heb. 7:23-25). Can you accept it?
Christ Died for Our MistakesAs I counsel Christian clients, I find most of them are eventually willing to release the guilt of intentional sin at the foot of the cross. It seems harder to release our mistakes. The “what if’s” and “only if’s” and the self-accusations of stupidity, carelessness or worthlessness seem to stick harder for some people than true evil. Perhaps it is because we seldom hear that Christ died for these things. And yet, Christ is signified by every bull, goat, lamb or dove which ever burned on the blood-spattered altar of the Tabernacle (see Hebrews 9). Christ died for our mistakes every bit as much as He died for our sins.
If you are carrying guilt or regret over mistakes from your past, you are carrying something which does not belong to you. You don’t get a do-over, much as you crave it, nor does your self-punishment relieve you of your burden. But the death of Christ out-weighs every mistake ever made by all God’s children. Our mistakes can be redeemed. Our fallenness can be cleansed. When you cast it off at the foot of the cross, God releases you from the burden of that mistake, promises to use it for good, and gives you the freedom, even the obligation, to forgive yourself. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Not for your sins – and not for your mistakes.
If you have a mistake you are trying to release, try this prayer:
Heavenly Father, forgive me for the mistake I made when __________________. Thank you for sending Jesus to offer the perfect sacrifice for everything that I am, including this. Help me believe that He is enough to redeem it all. Please use my mistake somehow for good in Your kingdom, and help me release it into Christ’s waiting hands. Amen.