What is Sin

Written By:  Robert Brinsmead

Such a lot to say about sin. Oh for the brevity of President Cooledge (or was it Hardinge), the man of few words.  He went to church one day, and upon returning, his wife who did not attend that day asked him, “What did the the Reverend preach about today, dear?”  Pres. Sin.

Wife:  And what did he have to say about sin?

Pres:  He was agin it!

The historical Jesus seemed to avoid the word “sin” from his vocabulary. The Greek word simply means missing the mark, falling short etc.  I have nothing against the word in that sense, but in religion it generally takes on a cultic meaning where sin becomes a defection from the cultic norm or the cultic defining point.  With a Muslim, eating ham is a big sin and the Muslim who is known to eat it is judged, shunned or in other ways estranged from the community. If you are an SDA, for instance, not believing in 1844 as a significant issue in the Bible, or not keeping the Sabbath is a matter of apostasy.  If you are a JW, taking a blood transfusion is the really big sin. What happens is that in the cult there is a tendency to strain at gnats and swallow camels.  The really big sins that relate to neglect of fellow man, lack of kindness and compassion, to be judgmental etc don’t even register on the sin Richter scale, but breaking the cultic defining points are elevated to distort ethics – or living and acting in a way that expresses being truly human.  Sin in this context becomes a pre-occupation with false guilt.
It’s a bit like Crocodile Dundee saying in his famous movie NY scene of being held up by petty criminal holding a knife.  Dundee smiles and says, “That’s not a knife” then he pulls out a whopping machete thing from behind his pants and says, “Now that’s a knife!”  So what I am really saying is, “That’s not a sin…now that’s a sin.”
Jesus had better figures of speech to put sin in context when he spoke of the speck in the eye versus a 4 x 2 in the eye, a gnat versus a camel.  The word nomos (law) in the NT means religion. Sanders points how how this was linguistically true in Koine Greek – and it clear enough that that is so according to the book of Galatians.  In Romans 7 Paul declares that law/religion produces all  manner of evil desires. He goes on to say that it causes him to do the thing he hates and not do what he longs to do. I suppose that whatever gets your attention gets you!  Thus, beware the person who appears to be obsessed to the point of always railing against something – that is what he is very liable to do – hence the moral defections of certain tele evangelists.
Thus Paul, the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law, meaning that nomos/religion does not cure sin but gives it wings and makes it strong. The only thing that can counteract the power of sin is unconditional love/generosity.  eg. According to Paul, the tenth commandment, covetousness, sums up all sin or the essence of all sin. God’s unconditional love and incredible generosity can kill this cancer of covetousness stone dead because the one who has been opened to God’s generosity has nothing left to covet.  But the negative gives more freedom.  If I say, you shall not wear a blue garment, then it means that you can wear anything else, and has more freedom than saying, You shall wear a blue garment, which gives no such wide freedom.  Of course Eve just had to try the forbidden tree even though all the rest had no such restrictions placed upon them.

Then again, another insight in the NT is that sin is all caused by the fear of death – think about that one for a bit!  Take away the fear of death = taking away the power of sin.