I would like to reflect with you today on mistakes, error culture and sin and whether and how they are connected.
I would like to start by telling you a story.
I have built a wood store in my workshop, which consists of several coarse chipboard panels to save space when storing leftover wood. To do this, I gave my relatively old and cheap DIY store circular saw quite a workout.
And suddenly it stopped making a sound. I switched it off and on again, but nothing worked. It was already pretty wizened, but it was still working fine. I stopped for the day and tried again the next day, but the circular saw remained dead.
Very annoying, so I bought a new circular saw, slightly better than the old one, and dismantled the old circular saw and removed the parts that I might still be able to do something with and put the meagre remainder on the road for the Tüdelü man. At some point, the rest was gone, it was almost all metal.
At some point I wanted to continue, set up the new saw, plugged it into the socket and nothing worked. I was already imagining having to dismantle the saw again when I tried another socket and it worked.
Then the scales fell from my eyes. The old saw wasn't broken at all, it was just the socket that had failed. This particular socket had a circuit of its own and that's why I hadn't noticed it otherwise.
So I broke a functioning tool for cannibalisation, which hurt my soul for a few days.
A mistake, a stupid mistake, an expensive mistake. I had also made a saw carriage myself for the old saw, which of course didn't fit on the new saw. The only thing I could really do was dismantle it.
How do you deal with such mistakes?
Ultimately, you have to make peace with it at some point. This isn't my first costly mistake and it probably won't be the last, even if I try to learn from my mistakes.
But perhaps I should leave my own perspective and ask my wife, for example, what she thinks about the fact that I have burnt about 150 euros.
Of course I told her that at the time and she comforted me and agreed to get a new saw that was a bit better than the old one.
She herself has also made expensive mistakes in the course of our marriage and perhaps that's also a secret to a happy marriage, that you don't just forgive each other for the small stuff, but also for the really expensive mistakes.
How do you deal with mistakes?
Error culture and error management have been a hot topic for some years now, especially in the world of work
Fail early to learn quickly!
Meaning: Make mistakes early so that you learn from them quickly.
One way of thinking about this is the continuous improvement process, or CIP for short. This originally comes from Japan, called Kaizen, and is intended to help organisations remain agile rather than rigid.
I will come back to this later, but first I would like to deal with the term "error".
Mistakes and sin
In preparation, as I always like to do, I searched the Internet for the key terms of my sermon, for "error culture" and "Bible".
Of course, I came across various devotions and almost all of them regarded "error" and "sin" as synonymous, as having the same meaning.
I got stuck on this question. Is every mistake you make or cause a sin?
Was what I did with my old circular saw a sin?
I once scanned several Bible translations simultaneously for the word "error". This works quite well with portals such as bibleserver.com.
The word defect appeared most frequently in the Old Testament in the sacrificial laws, namely that the sacrificial animals should all be without defect. This has nothing to do with our topic today, but rather refers to the fact that the best should be there for God and that we should not keep the best for ourselves and leave the flawed rest, which we do not want, for God.
Furthermore, the word "error" actually has the same meaning as the word "sin"; depending on the Bible translation, "error" or "sin" is used in some places.
The Greek (ἁμαρτία) as well as the Hebrew word (chat'at (חַטָּאָה/חַטָּ֣את)), which is translated as sin in German, has the original meaning of "missing a target" and it is also the case that sin is also called "transgression".
Incidentally, it is not entirely clear where the German word "Sünde" comes from, but there is a theory that it comes from the Old Norse word "sundr", which means, among other things, "to separate". This also sounds familiar to us Christians: Sin separates from God.
But let's get back to the transgression.
I find it difficult to equate error and sin.
You can certainly say that every sin is a mistake. But sin in the Bible is more than just a wrong deed.
The Bible says, for example in Romans 3:9, that all people are under sin, as Luther so beautifully puts it. It is a condition and the actions that are commonly referred to as "sins" result from it.
However, the term has somehow shifted somewhat in normal usage today.
Some "sins" are quite silly, such as fashion sins and diet sins, while others are taken very seriously, such as environmental sins. When it comes to traffic sins, opinion is rather divided as to how seriously they should be taken.
Why are there still no corona sins? For example, if you meet up with more than two people from another household? Or when you go shopping without a mask? That already feels so differently bad, doesn't it?
This also brings us to the subject of "standards", what is wrong and what is right. As a Christian, I don't want to have a detailed discussion like that, because the Bible is not a law book. Some people imagine that being a Christian means that you have to abide by a bunch of rules and paragraphs, and if you break a rule, you will be punished. But that's not the case.
The standards of the Bible can be summarised as Jesus does here (Matthew 22:37-40); NGÜ:
If you stick to it, then you're on the right track and will certainly reduce your offences.
It's not that easy, and I spoke earlier about the state of sin, so I'm sure that you need Jesus Christ for this path.
Error by mistake
Let us now look at the errors by mistake.
There is an interesting passage on this in Deuteronomy 15:24, which deals with the inadvertent non-observance of commandments, ultimately with doing something wrong by mistake.
I imagine it depends on the motive of the action, but that's not so easy, especially when, for example, the words "I only meant well" come into play.
However, "I only meant well" can also secretly mean "I know better than you!" and if mistakes are made, this is particularly annoying for the person concerned. And if there is also a certain resistance to learning because the other person doesn't know any better, then it becomes even more annoying.
But even "normal" mistakes can hurt other people, you become guilty even though you didn't mean to. Or you have more or less carelessly accepted it.
You realise that you can't always separate mistakes and sin so sharply and the attitude of loving God and your fellow human beings as well as being prepared to forgive is a good basis for dealing with sins as well as accidental mistakes.
Stupid / expensive mistakes
Errors can be categorised in different ways. We have just looked at accidental errors.
In the Bible, mistakes also appear in connection with stupidity, e.g. in Psalm 69:6; NET, for example, reads:
Here too, mistakes cannot always be separated from sins.
Unfortunately, we are stupid often enough and make stupid mistakes and we also have to learn to forgive each other for stupid mistakes again and again.
Of course, this is no excuse for resistance to learning, we must of course want to learn from mistakes, but we will still make stupid mistakes from time to time.
There is also the category of "costly" mistakes. I didn't find this explicitly in the Bible, but it does exist. By "costly" I don't just mean the monetary cost of a mistake, but the generally serious consequences of mistakes. If you hurt someone who is dear to you, then that is also an expensive mistake.
And here too, it doesn't help, you have to be prepared to forgive again and again.
Jesus was even prepared to forgive on the cross (Luke 23, 34a; NL):
We have already heard a few times today that the right basic attitude for our actions is to love God and our fellow human beings.
In addition, there is the willingness to be able to forgive sins and mistakes, whether stupid or costly.
In James 3, 2a; NL it is written very briefly:
Or in the Elberfelder it is also beautifully formulated:
Of course, the well-known passage from Matthew 18, 21.22; NL
This is a figurative expression for "very often".
Many mistakes, frequent forgiveness, that sounds simple, but dealing with the hurt that follows the sins and mistakes of others is of course often very difficult. Forgiveness does not mean sweeping things under the carpet, but this topic is beyond the scope of today's programme.
Change and error culture
Let us now turn to the term "error culture".
There will always be mistakes, I think we can all agree on that. But you still have to take risks without being reckless.
At the beginning, I briefly talked about this so-called continuous improvement process (CIP). I'm never sure when it comes to campaigns like this whether it's something like buzzword bingo or whether it can really be a living principle that changes things.
But I would now like to read out the section from the Wikipedia article under the heading "Organisation theory view" and replace only the word "markets" with "world". I'll leave the word "organisation" in, but think of community when I say "organisation":
From a systemic perspective, organisations always strive to remain stable, they have an "inertia" (are structurally conservative). The demand for continuous improvement contradicts this. Continuous improvement therefore requires constant commitment and communication, otherwise results will not be realised and the entire improvement process will fall asleep. Time and money must be specifically allocated and energy invested in CIP.
CIP promotes flexibility, an important quality feature, in order to be able to adapt to the changing world. An organisation only changes if there is an external reason for this - or, as in CIP, continuously through an internal attitude. If the organisation does not recognise that the conditions in the environment are changing and how, then it can no longer fulfil its task and will sooner or later die.
This section is of course not written for municipalities, but for organisations in general, with a focus on companies.
I was very captivated by this section. The world is constantly changing and not just because of corona. The truth of the Bible and that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins remains valid.
And we still have the task of carrying this message, in whatever form, into the changing world.
Changes lead to risks, to mistakes, of course. You have to dare to do something, otherwise nothing will ever change.
Paul expresses it in 2 Corinthians 4:7 by saying that we carry the precious treasure of the gospel in fragile vessels, a beautiful image for the imperfection of a human being.
Of course, this whole issue of change and the culture of error cannot just be seen as an organisational issue. It is a spiritual issue, just as Jesus Christ says in Luke 10:2:
We need people who pray, think and work together to bring the eternal message into a constantly changing world, in the right way and in an appropriate language that is understood. And only God can call such people.
We have to be prepared to try things out, take risks and make mistakes, while remaining willing to forgive ourselves again and again.
Let me summarise.
- Mistake and sin are not really the same thing, but they cannot be sharply separated either. Sin is first and foremost a condition from which sins result.
- The basis for sensible action is: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your devotion and with all your mind! 38 This is the greatest and most important commandment. 39 A second is just as important: love your fellow human beings as yourself! 40 These two commandments say everything that the law and the prophets demand.
- There are mistakes made by mistake, but they can still hurt and require forgiveness.
- There are stupid and costly mistakes, and despite our willingness to learn, we are not immune to them.
- And we make many mistakes, because we are only fragile vessels.
- We must be prepared to change, to take a risk, to adapt without denying the truth of the gospel.
- The harvest is great, but there are only a few labourers. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest field.