When Leviticus uses the phrase sins unintentionally, it might be better rendered as wanders away into sin, or does wrong. Ignorance of the law was no excuse. If someone (or a group) engaged in actions or behaviors and only later found out those things were infractions of the law, he was (they were) still guilty. The real difference between the sin offering and the guilt offering was that the sin offering was for more general sins, while the guilt offering included restitution for harming or injuring another person.
Whether between persons, or between humanity and God, these laws are for maintaining relationship and restoring that relationship once it has been broken.
An interesting component of this passage is the concept of community sin. Too often we think of sin as only an individual’s offense rather than allowing for the idea of sin shared by the entire community. The church is not innocent of wrongdoing. Whether it’s the crusades, the Inquisition, genocide of native peoples in the name of manifest destiny, dehumanizing women, Blacks and now gays and lesbians, or our misguided attempt to enforce an Evangelical system of government on the rest of America, the church… the Christian community is not innocent.
There are sins for which our communities (countries, political parties, religions, denominations, congregations, ethnic groups, genders, etc.) need to repent.
How will you, as part of the church, encourage or facilitate repentance in the Christian community this week?