Sin Simplified

Sin is one of those “religious” words we often use in Christian contexts without always having a full grasp on its meaning. We understand it to some extent having been acquainted with it through its reappearance in talks, but if we were asked to define it exactly, we might struggle to convey its meaning. This post seeks to unpack the idea of sin and explore some of the implications of it in relation to our lives.

The Oxford Dictionary defines sin as ‘an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law’[1]. This definition is not particularly helpful, likely because this is a secular definition of a primarily “religious” term. No insight is shed upon what sin is other than saying that it is immoral and against God, and even this isn’t necessarily true. Yes a lot of sin is morally wrong, but not all sin falls within this category as some sin can be a grey area with no clear answer, and some actions can be sinful whilst not appearing to be at all. This is something I will touch on later.

The Hebrew word for sin is Chatta’th, and this word means: ‘to miss the road or miss the mark’[2]. I understand it like this: God has a way of living, a path that he wants us to walk as individuals unique to us and our giftings, passions and talents, but also shares some common ground with other people too. However, through ignorance or rebellion, everyone has missed God’s path and gone their own way. Isaiah 53:6 says that “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way”. All have left the path that God made for us to walk. All of us have pushed God away and out of our lives and decided to do things our own way. No-one can say that they haven’t sinned as all have missed the road.

It is at this point that I wish to make clear here that not all sin is morally wrong or evil, although a lot of it is, sin is simply be doing something outside of the path that God has for you. For example, if God’s plan for your life entails working a minimum wage job and being the best husband and father you can be and you quit your job to become a missionary in a foreign country, then this can be sin. You have left the path that God had for you to seek something else, even though that pursuit was a noble one. This is completely dependent on the person and the circumstances surrounding their life of course, and as an individual you ought to prayerfully seek God to determine His plan for your life. Now saying that God has a plan for our lives, does that mean then that we don’t get a say in what our life looks like? Not at all. We co-labour with God meaning that we make decisions in what we want to do along with having input from God. Our opinions matter greatly to God and we do have a big say in where we go and what we do with our lives, but this is balanced with God being sovereign and having a greater perspective on our lives. However going any further here is encroaching on a discussion of predestination versus freewill, so I will leave that for another time.

It is when we have a correct understanding of the word sin that verses like this display their full meaning: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”[3] This verse explains in a nutshell the concept of sin. There are two paths that we can choose to walk in this life, one of those is with God and one of those is without Him. One path leads to life – living the path that God has for us, and the other leads to destruction – living a life of sin and walking a path that outside of what God has for us. Which path we decide to walk on in our life is ultimately up to us and does matter as it leads us straight to where we will spend our life now and also in eternity. God wants us to live with Him here on earth and forever with Him in heaven, He wants to be a father to us and help us to get the most out of life, helping us to fulfil our potential and be the best we can be. Jesus said he was ‘the way and the truth and the life’[4] – he is the road (way) through which we find meaning (truth) and ultimate fulfilment (life). There is another path though, a path without God, and because this is a path without God, it can only end in destruction. If you choose to live your life without God then you are rejecting all things good as all good things come from God, and are choosing a path of darkness instead. This can only end one way, but don’t let it end this way.

Sin separates us from God as we can’t be walking the path God has for us if we are already walking our own way away from Him, and God wants to reconcile all people back to himself and do away with the separation that our rebellion caused. God sent his one and only son Jesus to fix our mess. Jesus lived a faultless life, always remaining obedient to God, never straying from the path that God had set for him; and He freely and willingly took the place of a sinner, condemned to die as a criminal and was crucified for our sin whilst being innocent. When he was crucified he became the embodiment of our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), taking the punishment for all our disobedience and dying in our place. All the wrong things we have done and will yet do were laid upon him and he died for them. The story doesn’t end here as he was raised to life on the third day, defeating death and conquering all the effects of sin. This sacrifice allows us to come and know God and be welcomed into His family.

I experienced this first hand when I was eleven years old. Being born into a non-Christian family, I didn’t grow up in church or with any real knowledge of God. I was content living life for myself and walking my own path. I didn’t give any thought to God and had no care for Him whatsoever, I was happy doing my own thing living life my own way; until my world radically changed. You see even though I wasn’t searching for God, He was searching for me. Events transpired that lead me to attend a youth group one evening against my desire to not attend; I was only there because I had to be. Some would say it was chance, merely a coincidence, but personally, I know life doesn’t happen that way. God called out to me and I answered, and this would become a defining point in my life. The talk I heard that evening was the first time I had had the good news of Jesus Christ explained to me, and once was all I needed. What meant nothing to me two hours prior all of a sudden became something I had given my life to – I made the commitment to start walking God’s path for me instead of my own. There have been some rocky patches along the way and I have strayed from God’s path and returned again, but overall I have never looked back.

The cross is an invitation for all to come and walk with Him and to live according to His ways. He is not an angry God who wants to beat us back into line, but instead He is the definition of love (see 1 John 4:8), wanting to restore all people to Himself. All it takes to accept this free gift is to ask for God’s forgiveness and start walking God’s path instead of your own. If you haven’t already done this I recommend you think about it, it’s the best thing I ever did.

 

References

[1] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/sin
[2] James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010)
[3] Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
[4] John 14:6 (NIV)

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