Last night we had a very thought provoking discussion in small group on the subject of sin. The discussion stemmed off of an article about the difference between a mistake and sin. After hearing all the comments I am not all that convinced that there really is a difference between a mistake and a sin. The author’s point was valid, we tend to lighten the concept of sin by calling it a mistake. However, this was still done within the context of owning the mistake and turning from it. Regardless of the semantics, I think there are three dangers for Christians when it comes to our concept of sin: 1. Making light of the sin. 2. Continuing in the sin. And 3. Thinking we don’t sin. Our concept of sin inseparably linked to our concept of forgiveness and, therefore also, grace.
I’ve always identified sin through four Scriptures:
1Jn 3:4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
Rom 4:15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Jas 4:17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Rom 14:23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Based on these Scriptures, I consider sin to be:
- Breaking the law (1 Jn. 3:4 & Rom. 4:15). That is God’s law as shown through the Scriptures, but it also includes governmental laws which do not violate God’s law. Scripture does require us to submit to rulers and authorities (Tit.3:1)
- Sin is also not doing something that we know we should do. This covers a lot of areas (Jam 4:17).
- It is also considered a sin to do something that we think is wrong, even though in reality it may not be wrong (Rom. 14:23).
All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23), and all of us will sin again. The problem comes along when we try to make light of sin. We do this in several ways: 1. We consider the sins of others worse than our own and we figure God grades on a curve. 2. We find our desires too overpowering to resist. And 3. we manage to convince ourselves that what we are doing is not really a sin.
The fact is, we are all guilty of sin. I’m not talking about the past, I’m talking about here and now no matter how much you have matured as a Christian. If you don’t think so, you may want to read 1 Jn. 1:8. Memorize it! Do you think you’re without sin? Do you think you don’t sin anymore now that you have matured as a Christian? Let me talk to your spouse, your children, or your parents. Thinking we are without sin is not a good thing at all. It is the height of arrogance. Such an attitude only shows just how deceived and blind we are. The first step in overcoming a sin is recognizing the sin.
How does this affect forgiveness? Just consider the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. I don’t think there is any of them who would have tried to maintain that they were sinless; it’s just that the sins of everybody else was worse than their own. So they looked with disdain on beggars, prostitutes, drunkards, etc., without ever recognizing their own inadequacies .
When we recognize our sin and the pain that it has caused God and other people, we have a deeper appreciation for the grace God offers us, and we become more willing to offer it to others. It was hard for the Pharisees to appreciate God’s grace because deep down inside they figured they earned it. They were so much better than the others because their sins were not near as bad. I think that is true for many of us today as well.
We won’t be perfect in this life. But as we recognize our sins and confess them before God, we are told the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). We don’t deserve it. If the seed of grace has been planted in our hearts we will be driven from continuing in the sin (1 Jn. 3:9-10). This doesn’t mean that we will never sin again. But when we are truly convicted of sin, continuing in it will eat away at us until one of two things will happen: either we will stop the sin, or we will silence the inner voice that is pushing us from the sin.
Let me try to apply this in a personal way. Recently, a loved one hurt me. It doesn’t matter who, how or why. This wasn’t the first time I was hurt by this person, and I doubt it will be the last. I became angry from the hurt I felt. Bitterness started swelling in my mind from the wrong I felt. Who’s sinning now? Satan had a foothold on my brain and he was poisoning my thoughts by the second. I was wronged. That wasn’t right. They sinned and they probably don’t even care. This attitude is what stems from thinking the other person’s sins are worse than my own. When I remember my own wrongs, the bitterness leaves and compassion swells. In this case, an apology was offered. Those who struggle with forgiveness are those who who have lost sight of their own sin.
Instead of anger, now I was filled with shame. How many wrongs have I committed towards this one who hurt me? What right do I have to be angry at anybody? It’s a different perspective isn’t it? As a Christian, I have to forgive. I want to forgive. I have been forgiven.