What are some of the famous phrases that you have heard about sin? Have you heard these phrases before?
- All sins are the same. No sin is worse than any other.
- Or it’s contrast, some sins are worse than others.
- Love the sinner, hate the sin.
You might look at that list and think, “But wait…aren’t they in the Bible?” In other words, “Isn’t that statement true?”
What we are going to try to establish, and perhaps I will fail, is that each one of these statements or principles is either totally false, or somehow partially false. Some of these statements or principles are not in the Bible. Some, however, are based on biblical material, but misunderstood by many people.
We are going to fact check these statements about sin, but first it is important for us to ask, what is sin?
Almost 20 years ago I attended a talk by Michael Murray who was at the time a philosophy professor at Franklin & Marshall College nearby. He said that for years he would ask his students at F&M about the definition of evil. There would be disagreements, of course, but what all agreed on, for years, is that the Nazi holocaust and war for world domination was evil, wrong, and sinful. But then something happened. As our culture changed, some students, not many, but some, started saying things like, “Well, I don’t like what the Nazis did, and I myself would never do that, but I can’t say that it was wrong.” You and I may shake our heads at that, but it shows that there is a huge difference of opinion out there as to what sin is. Even in my church and yours, I would guess we have some different views on what sin is. So what is sin?
The Bible has a surprising number of ways to describe it, and there are many words for it. In the Old Testament, one of the most common words for sin, has a very picturesque definition: “to miss the mark” or “to go astray.” In the New Testament, we find similar definitions. One word is the Greek “scandalon” where we get our English word “scandal”, and this too has very picturesque meaning, “to cause someone to stumble” or “fall into a trap.”
Another one of the most common words for sin in the New Testament means, “to act contrary to the will and law of God.” Here are a couple verses using that word.
James 4:17 – Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
1 John 3:4 – Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
So to summarize, sin is human choice to act against God’s wishes.
But when we hear from time to time these phrases or principles about sin, it seems that people can be confused, so let’s fact check them. Check back in tomorrow for part 3 when we’ll look at our first phrase about sin that many Christians believe, but perhaps is false