Day 5: What is sin?

by Arch Hoercher

We need to take a little side excursion right now.  We need to look at sin and what it is.  The short Biblical definition of sin is “to miss the mark.”  The “mark” in this case, is the standard of perfection established by God and evidenced by Jesus.  Viewed in that light, it is clear that we are all sinners.  The Apostle Paul in Romans 3:23 wrote: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  All means all.  

It does no good to compare ourselves to others.  We cannot escape our failure to be righteous in our own strength.  This is by God’s design, because only when we understand our weakness will we consider relying on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

Sin is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, starting with the “original” sin when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge.  Often it seems as if sin is simply the violation of any of God’s laws, including the Ten Commandments.  Paul, however, puts this in perspective in Romans 3:20, when he says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”  God wanted us to recognize our sins.  Even those who have not murdered or committed adultery will find themselves convicted of lying, or having lustful thoughts, or of worshiping false idols like wealth or power ahead of God.  Tragically, sin in any amount or of any variety will distance us from God.

We must resist the temptation to act as if we are righteous, especially by leaning on our good works.  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:8-10).  The good news in all of this is that, once we recognize ourselves as sinners, we need only to repent and embrace Jesus to be forgiven.  Jesus can forgive us because He died and rose again in victory over sin and death.  And that, everyone, is grace.

For years, I have used and illustration of sin and how we look at it and how God looks at it.  We look at sin as if we are standing next to Mount Everest.  The “little” sins such as little white lies and gossip are down at the bottom of the mountain.  The “big” sins, such as murder and child molestation, are at the top of the mountain.  We graduate sin in terms of its implications.  God sees sin in a whole different way.  It is as if He were sitting on the moon and looking down on the earth.  As far as the eye can tell, Mount Everest is no different than the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  The earth looks as smooth as a cue ball.  So, to God, the little white lie or just a little gossip will separate you from God to the same degree as murder or child molestation.  What also needs to be understood is that every sin, no matter how “little” or how “big” carries with it a consequence.  The little white lie could hurt someone’s feelings or mislead a person.  Murder takes a person’s life and can greatly affect those who love and care about that person.  Earthly justice can also be a consequence to sin.  A little white lie will probably not land you in jail, but murder could put you there for life.  But God’s forgiving and all-encompassing grace can forgive both the little white lie and muder.