Psalm 19:12-13 (NIV): Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
Even though human beings are often weak, and frequently fall into error through lack of information or misunderstanding, not all error is a sin; not every misstep breaks a person’s relationship with God. The actions that are sin are willful actions that violate a known law- what is termed in the Old Covenant “sins with a high hand.” You know that an action is wrong, but you choose to do it anyway. Or you know that God requires you to do something, but you choose to leave that action undone. Such actions legitimately break our relationship with God (not just our “fellowship” with Him), because they are done in a spirit of rebellion against Him. In fact, the break in the relationship is caused by the rebellion before the sinful action is actually done.
People may make mistakes trying to do the right thing. Those missteps do not stem from rebellion, and do not break our relationship with God. When they are discovered, they need to be repented of (meaning that, in addition to admitting the error to God, and godly sorrow for any harm done, adjustments need to be made in one’s life to avoid repeating the misstep), and often admission and restitution need to be made to any who have been wronged. To refuse to do those things is rebellion, and will be counted as willful sin.
The main issue is that sinful actions, actions that break our relationship with God, have behind them a rebellious heart. Such sins are NOT inevitable, not inescapable, and, in fact, will be judged by God as open rebellion against His rulership in a person’s heart. For the honest mistakes that even the best people make from time to time, those that do NOT spring from open disobedience or rebellion, God’s people do not need to fear His wrath any more that a two-year old who accidentally spills his milk should have to fear wrath from his loving parents. They should reasonably expect teaching, and there may be some corrective measures, but no wrath, and no broken relationship with the parents. (If there are those things over a simple two-year old mistake, the problem lies with the parents, not with the child!)
God is the ideal parent. He loves His children enough to die for them. He teaches us patiently how to live in His kingdom, and helps us to grow in wisdom and to mature in discernment and judgment so that our missteps grow fewer and less serious as time goes by. But He cannot and will not tolerate open rebellion and willful sins among the people of the kingdom.
Father, thank You for Your love and Your mercy, and for Your patient instruction. I pray along with the psalmist: Forgive my hidden faults. Keep me, your servant, also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.