What Is Sin, Anyway?


What is sin? In a sermon on “sin,” a preacher announced that there were seven hundred eighty-nine different sins. A few days later the mailman delivered ninety-four requests from members of his congregation for a list of the seven hundred eighty-nine sins.

In scripture “sin” is a falling away from or missing the right path. It is not an act as much as a relationship. The underlying idea of sin is that of law and of a lawgiver. Hence sin is everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God’s moral creatures that is contrary to the expressed will of God.

The sinfulness of sin lies in the fact that it is against God, even when the wrong we do is to others or ourselves. Sin therefore is nothing more or less than “disobedience.” When Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” We are expecting Him to say something like, “You shall not kill,” or “To have no other gods before Me.” However, Jesus’ response is: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. It is a relationship, not a law!

I see a society today very much like in the day of the Pharisee, very legalistic.
But how many of us know that we can obey the law and miss the intent? “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices– mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law– justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

In the concept of “original” sin, it is believe that because of Adam and Eve’s sin that we are born sinners. What was Adam and Eve’s sin? Disobedience.
I don’t believe that we are born sinners, but I do believe that we are born into a very sinful world. As a result of that we easily start participating in a life of sin.

Let us contrast two events in scripture to better understand the issue of sin.
The first is the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah. How you have fallen from heaven,
Why is Lucifer cast out of Heaven? Sin! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.” In other words, he wants to be like God, no, he wants to be God.

The sum of all the commandments is love; sin in its nature is egotism and selfishness. What is at the bottom? Disobedience, and it becomes hostility to God when it collides with His law.

Let us contrast that with the temptations of Jesus at the end of His 40 day fast. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Where is it wrong to change the stones into bread if we are hungry? Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” He is God, He can do anything He wants to do. Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” This is the first temptation of Jesus that directly breaks a law of God. Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

The law is solely for our benefit, in God’s eye, sin is sin. Save the Unpardonable Sin, all sin has the same value, death. The sin of stealing just like the sin of murder will get us thrown into Hell. There is no difference between a white lie and a black lie, sin is sin.

Defying God’s laws is wilful disobedience. Disobedience destroys relationships and even our relationship with God. The whole purpose of “grace” was to re-establish that relationship.

Between my junior and senior years in college, I worked at the Department of Human Services in Oldham County, Kentucky. I met a beautiful girl who was also working in that same office. We started dating and had lots of fun. On our sixth date, she made an advance toward me. Sure, the physical attraction was there! She knew what I stood for, I had been clear from the very beginning. I had even taken her to church with me. She knew my plans for the ministry. When the advance came, I was not flattered. Her concluding words were, “I am not jail bait.” Those words were not an invitation for me but a conclusion. The only question that I had was, “Who do I love more, her or Jesus?” I took her to her home and dropped her off. There was the most freeing feeling going home.

Time magazine had a report (Jan 11, 82) on Children of War. The report included interviews with children now growing up in war-torn Ireland, Israel, Lebanon, Cambodia and Viet Nam. In Ireland, Elizabeth Crawford was just 16, one of ten children. Her mother was senselessly caught in the crossfire. Her friend Patrick was also killed. Her grandfather was shot. When we were younger we couldn’t understand it. We didn’t know where to turn or who to blame. We asked, Why is all this happenin’ to us? The reporters asked her “Did it shake your belief in God?” “Not in God. In man.”

Sin is humanities problem! God is the answer to that question.

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