what is sin?

When every I write about there not being a "original" or "universal" sin [or sin in general], people send me this scripture, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" and then they say, "See, it says 'sin' and not 'sins,' striving hard to make a point of a "universal sin." But is that what it says? In the message it says, "The sins" not "the sin" - meaning all sins, not some "original" or “universal” sin concept. In fact, the Greek word is "amartiaiv" and "amartian" [both translated in the singular and plural] and is translated 75 other times as "sins." keep in mind that Romans 5:14 implies that not all people are sinners "in the way of Adam" and that there is no statement of original sin as defined by traditional [dear I say, "evangelical doctrine" without pissing off those who think I bash evangelicals] doctrine.

The way I believe scriptures speak of "sin" is not on a "what you do" basis. Nothing we do is, in and of itself, a sin; because if that were the case, as Paul explains, all we need do is not do it and we do not sin and then Christ dies for no reason. The act of drinking is not a sin, but there could be an underlining fact in the drinking that could be seen as sin for some people, but not for all. But to make drinking a sin for all people is, in my view, a sin with the underlining desire of control and power on the part of the human who demands that drinking be a sin. for that, as I see it, sin can never be an action, and even where one thinks there is an "action" because they read the scriptures that way, I believe they are reading them wrong - and not seeing the underlining factor involved in what they demand as an "act of sin."

Sin is not "what separates us from God" because I believe life can do that, and life is not a sin; family can do that, and family is not a sin. I believe "sin" is that underlining desire, that underlining "thought process," that causes harm to others, and you. Meaning? Sin is not what we do against God but that underlining factor that cause us to harm each other.

I believe, "sin" is behind the desire and thought process to build bombs; to pollute the water and air; to kill people; to allow people to live in substandard housing; to not feeding the hungry; to not opening our lives to others; to the creation of a "class" thought pattern where there is the very rich, and the very poor. It is what ever lies in the heart that causes us to place "us" before others. It is not in every person, and does not guide the life of every person. Sin is when we give into that thought process and see ourselves as having more value then others.

People like Mother Teresa, Gandhi and others walk in the light that shares love, forgiveness and grace with the world. They are the contemporary models of going against that underlining reality. They do not see the world as "fallen" but as redeemed. Jesus never saw the world as "fallen" but he did see it as redeemable; if we follow the logic of Paul we need to ask, "Would Jesus die for a fallen world and keep it fallen, or would Jesus die for a world redeemed?" When we see the fallen world, we are blinded to the possibility of redemption, and all that redemption has to offer. We get to the point where we only see the fallen, and not the redeemed. Sure, we say we see it; we say we believe in the redemption of Christ, but in that we are quick to find the faults and problems and not the possibilities offered in the redemption of Christ.

Sin is the underling thought process that causes us to be separated from each other. Jesus made that clear in his ministry of redemption, in his life of forgiveness and in his speech of unity. One example of this is when Jesus tells us to fix the problems we have with each other before we even think of coming before God; another is when Jesus tells us that if we are unwilling to forgive the wrongs others have done to us, God is unwilling to forgive our wrongs. I believe scripture teaches that sin, is finding reasons why we can not help others when we claim to be following Christ; sin is claiming that writing a check is the answer, when other actions are required; sin is the idea that we can spend millions on a church building when millions are homeless; sin is not planning a feeding room in the church because "those people" might come; sin is thinking that "other churches" deal with the homeless and the hungry because they are better at it then we are; sin is not wanting to reach certain people because we think we will be tagged a "that kind of church;" sin is the heart behind arguing over sending $50 to the local food pantry, but then spending $5,000 on carpeting the pastor's study; sin is reading this and finding reasons why we do not have to do anything in it, and making excuses for not having the action we need in faith.


Craig said...

At the risk of focusing on a side issue in your post, and without knowing everything about Gandhi, wasn't he of the Hindu faith? Should we then be open to the belief that he was able to "walk in the light that shares love, forgiveness and grace with the world"?

Steve said...

Excellent post - I would say that sin is about selfishness - which is where you seem to be leading - about chosing to dismiss the needs of others.

I like you take on what separates us from God - life, (and certainly family!)...


I guess that depends what you mean when you say light. To share love, forgivness and grac with the world is cetainly bringing a light, whatever your belief, and he certainly walked in it.

Ghandi was a student of Jesus. I think if we all followed Jesus life even 10% of the way that Ghandi did, then the world would be a much better place. I think we can be mini-christs whatever our faith.


spamthewunderdog said...

In your language, I find something that we have in common regarding what exactly sin is. You said:

"It is what ever lies in the heart that causes us to place "us" before others. It is not in every person, and does not guide the life of every person. Sin is when we give into that thought process and see ourselves as having more value then others."

I have often thought that the root of sin, is cowardice. I really believe that being a coward is the root of all sinfulness. I am not saying that having fear, or even being paralyzed to the point of innaction is the root of sin. To me cowardice is all about not seeing the higher cause. Its living for the self, as opposed to living for someone else. In the case of the Christ follower, it is living the way that he patterns for us to live. That way of life takes guts, it takes moxie, it takes chutzpah...The coward is someong who is not willing to assent to the higher cause becuase he is so enthralled with his own needs, wants, and desires. Giving in to this pattern of thinking, causes us to act in a cowardly manner that roots us in sincul behavior. The behavior isn't the sin, its the cowardice that is...