Is Our View of Sin Too Narrow?
For those who still believe in a concept known as “sin,” perspective of what that means can sometimes become skewed. What should we understand about sin?
Regardless of varying beliefs, most would generalize that the word sin refers to something morally wrong or the breaking of a set of religious standards. Christians should know that the Bible refers to sin as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) or “unrighteousness” (1 John 5:17). Yet, in a world with so many blatant examples of breaking God’s law, have we forgotten what sin really is? Take the following two examples of Person 1 and Person 2.
Person 1 doesn’t believe in God. In fact, Person 1 is a homosexual doctor who performs abortions, loves to use foul language and lies pervasively.
Person 2 prays to Jesus Christ. In fact, Person 2 faithfully celebrates Christmas and Easter and goes to church every Sunday. Person 2 also loves to serve large portions of ham and shellfish to the less fortunate.
Question: Which person’s life characterizes sin?
Completely astounding answer: Both of them!
Sin is sin
Even though different sins reap different natural consequences, the fact remains that sin is the transgression of any part of the law of God (1 John 3:4, King James Version). Notice how James 2:10-11 puts it: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”
Political correctness and self-righteousness, centered on a misunderstanding of what God wants, can often give us the wrong perspective about sin. Sin is sin! Taking James’ point, we can see that Person 2 above (who seems pretty good) is just as guilty of sin as Person 1:
- The same God who commands us to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3) tells us to direct our prayer to God the Father (Matthew 6:6).
- The same God who directs His people to overcome homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) also commands them to reject pagan customs and practices of worship (Deuteronomy 12:31).
- The same God who commands us to not bear false witness against a neighbor (Exodus 20:16), also commands us to avoid certain meats that include pork and shellfish (Leviticus 11).
The list continues. How did the perspective on sin get so skewed? Unfortunately, a lot of the confusion has come about due to misinterpretations of the Bible.
Man put his perspective on sin
Instead of allowing the God of the Bible to clearly define what is right and wrong, man decided to do that on his own. Along with many professing Christians who may think that Person 2 is doing nothing wrong, the modern world has developed its own perspective on sin. This includes concepts like:
- The Bible is outdated. Things that were wrong back then are acceptable now.
- Christ did away with all those laws we don’t want to follow.
- Anything anybody does is fine as long as it doesn’t “hurt” anyone else.
God’s perspective from the Bible is very different. It includes concepts like:
- These laws are here for our benefit, to help us and everyone around us (Deuteronomy 6:24).
- Christ didn’t destroy the law; He fulfilled it (filled it up, giving the additional spiritual application) by keeping and teaching it (Matthew 5:17).
- Sin always has consequences, some of which are immediate and isolated and some of which are long-term and far-reaching (Numbers 32:23).
Getting back to God’s perspective
Christ addressed this issue in Luke 13:1-5: “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’”
God’s perspective on sin challenges the world’s perspective in two very important ways. First, it shows that anyone breaking the law, even the parts of the law that the world and many Christians don’t follow or care about, must have a change of mind, or “repent.” Secondly, it shows that those we may consider to be “worse sinners” are in the same boat as the entire world, no matter what part of the law they are guilty of transgressing.
Thankfully, God’s grace and abundant mercy is available to all who are willing to repent and change their lives to meet His standard—His perspective on sin. Let’s all reevaluate our lives and remember that without repentance all sin is ultimately fatal.
To learn more about the full biblical definition of sin, read our informative article What Is Sin?