Sins of Omission versus Sins of Commission, part 1
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Sins of Omission versus Sins of Commission, part 1

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Some are guilty. All are responsible.” Heschel’s comment is reminiscent of a quote from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
While I think all people could well reflect on this wisdom, I think that it particularly applies to Christians who believe that we should make “disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In this passage, Jesus encourages followers to baptize people throughout the world, but to be a Christian means following Christ’s example, in other words leading a Christ-like life. I am not alone in thinking that the greatest test of whether one has truly embraced Christ is how one relates to nonhuman persons.

Nonhuman persons are unable to defend themselves, and it takes a degree of self-control and some humility to resist the temptation to abuse them for entertainment, status clothing, food preferences, etc. Further, because nonhuman persons can’t advocate effectively on their own behalf, they will continue to be victimized by those who are cruel or callous if we who call ourselves Christian don’t defend them.

Failure to protect vulnerable individuals is a sin of omission, in contrast to acts of commission, such as those who actively abuse nonhuman persons. Are sins of omission less blameworthy than sins of commission? Is one more lacking in compassion than the other? I’ll explore these questions next essay. 

Go on to: Sins of Omission versus Sins of Commission, part 2
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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