Sin Greater than it Seems
Luke 23:34
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

They know not what they do. There is more in our actions, and therefore in our life, than there seems to be to ourselves (see "The largeness of Our life," homily on Luke 10:16). There is more of good; more also of evil. These soldiers imagined that they were doing nothing more than executing a malefactor. They were murdering a Messiah; they were putting to death the Son of Man, the Savior of mankind. They knew not what they did; they did not recognize the extreme seriousness, the actual awfulness, of the crime they were committing. Thus is it constantly. We suppose ourselves to be doing something of very little consequence; but he who knows the realities and the issues of all things sees in our action something far more serious than we see. We know not what we do when we err from the straight line of moral and spiritual rectitude. We do not know -

I. HOW WE HURT A HUMAN SPIRIT WHEN WE WOUND IT. Whether this be by something said or done, by a glance of the eye, by the withholding of the expected word or action, we often wound more deeply than we think. We suppose we have caused a momentary irritation. If we knew all, we should know that we have produced a soreness of feeling, a keenness of disappointment, or (it may be) a depth of distress, which it will take weeks or months to heal.

II. HOW WE WRONG OURSELVES WHEN WE SIN AGAINST OUR CONSCIENCE, It is, we assure ourselves, a very slight deviation from rectitude; it is a negligence for which we can easily make up a little further on. But, in truth, we have begun a slow, steady, spiritual descent, which will take us to the bottom. We know not what we do when we take the first step in moral laxity. We have started our soul on an evil course; we have done ourselves a wrong which we quite fail to measure.

III. HOW WE DAMAGE ANOTHER'S CHARACTER WHEN' WE INJURE IT. We have only induced our neighbor to take a step which will open his eyes to that which he ought to know. So we say, and perhaps think. But, in fact, we have done much more than that. We have led him to do that which has injured his conscience, which has weakened his self respect, which has enfeebled his character. He will be less strong, henceforth, in the evil hour of temptation; he will be more open to attack, less likely to resist and to conquer his adversary. When we lead into temptation and sin, we "know not what we do."

IV. HOW WE GRIEVE OUR SAVIOUR WHEN WE DISOBEY OR DISHONOUR HIM, We do not know how much he expects of his disciples, especially of those who have such opportunities as we have of knowing and doing his will - how much attachment, how strong an affection, how quick an obedience, how full and patient a submission, he has a right to look for, and does wait to receive. And we do not know the fullness and intensity of his feeling of disappointment and sorrow when we fail him. The disciples did not know what they did, how grievously they failed, when they slept in that hour through which they should have watched. What depth of touching, tenderest pathos we hear in these words of gentle remonstrance: "Could ye not watch with me one hour?"

V. HOW WE HINDER THE CAUSE OF CHRIST when we discredit it. We think, perhaps, that the evil impression we have conveyed by our inconsistency will soon be forgotten, lost entirely in the current of human affairs. But more harm is done than we know or think. Some souls are shocked, scandalized, injured; their faith is lessened, perhaps pierced; they will not count for Christ what they would have counted. Springs of anti-Christian influence are started: who shall say whither they will flow?

VI. HOW WE SIN AGAINST GOD WHEN WE WITHHOLD FROM HIM OURSELVES AND OUR SERVICE. We may imagine that we are only delaying till a more suitable or convenient time the duty we intend to discharge. But we are really disobeying a Divine command; we are refusing a Divine invitation; we are continuing in open rebellion, in unfilial estrangement. We are seriously sinning against our heavenly Father, our merciful Savior, our rightful and righteous Sovereign.

1. Our ignorance of "what we do" is. in part a necessity of our finite nature; for we cannot possibly look down into the depth of things; nor can we look on to the final issues. This is beyond the compass of our powers.

2. But it is in part also the fault of our character. We do not think, we do "not consider" (Isaiah 1:3), we do not inquire. We do not use as we might our spiritual faculties. More patient, prayerful consideration of "what we do" would save us from many errors, many wrongs, and also from many painful memories and much self-reproach. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

WEB: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." Dividing his garments among them, they cast lots.

Prayer for Murderers
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