Perhaps it is time to be progressive and redefine sin?
It seems some believe our definition of sin needs changing. The suggestion is that it is archaic and outdated and needs to be brought into the 21st Century. I could not agree more… I vote to redefine sin! But it may not be the way you think.
Let’s start with a little review. Traditionally sin has been viewed as transgressions of a certain sort. It consists of actions determined to be reprehensible and worthy of condemnation. This is only part of the truth! Rather sin is a universal condition resulting in moral decay. The decay is what we usually identify as sin but it is really a consequence of a deeper more permanent condition. Sin at its core is really something else.
But before examining the essence of sin we should make one thing clear. The message of Jesus was to say this condition is universal. He is categorically saying all have sinned and thus all are guilty.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23
This raises the ire of ‘good’ people in particular who have gone to great lengths to avoid sin. Like the religious leaders of Christ’s day they have refrained from wrongdoing, often at great sacrifice. The notion that they also should be grouped with the rest of us is insulting. Their outrage is misplaced and they have clearly misunderstood the nature of sin.
What is the Condition?
So here it comes! Sin has been said to mean ‘missing the mark’. I am not going to argue with that definition, but it strikes me as vague. I would rather define sin as a plague; a sickness affecting everyone born into the earth. The central feature of this disease is a loss of orientation making it impossible for us to find God, who is Himself the very definition of good. This is the meaning behind the above passage (Romans 3:23).
There are two parts of this worth noticing. The first is ‘all have sinned’ and the second is ‘all have fallen short’. They are related but different! Falling short makes sinning unavoidable. Think of it this way. When a planet is knocked from its original orbit, it knows neither where it came from nor where it is. Likewise mankind has lost its way. This is the fallen condition resulting in individual sins. The fix is not going to be simply avoiding transgression as that is impossible. Rather, God’s plan is to restore us to our former position; our former orientation. But let’s think about it as a disease.
Diseases have two components: The disease itself and the accompanying symptoms. In this case the sickness is universal but the symptoms are not. These two parts are equivalent to our being ‘fallen’ and prone to ‘sin’. Here is where it gets confusing for some. Though we are all equally infected, some work very hard to conceal their symptoms to the point of believing they have no disease. This is vain and shortsighted, in addition to being a lie. In fact, the feverish need to conceal the fact we are infected, is itself a symptom of the disease.
Our confusion around sin is because we have not realized the symptoms are less important than the disease itself. It is further clouded by the shame or superiority we might feel over the presence or absence of symptoms. Yet these are inconsequential, neither affirming or condemning us, as infections manifest differently from person to person. We must come to grips with the fact that, according to God, all are infected. All have symptoms, even if the only symptom is shame over possibly having symptoms. What we need is an antidote.
The disease is our disconnection from God. We have lost our way and are without any reference for good and so make up our own; a moral code filling our preferences. We can imagine we are unaffected but that is the worst of lies. Our priority needs to be restoration with our Creator God. This God made possible by sending His Son to die for us, which is the essential message of the Gospel. So let’s escape the shame, embrace this updated definition of sin and let the healing begin.