What is sin?

When I was six I had a friend in my class die on his way home from school. His name was Andy. He lived just a couple blocks from the school, and we played baseball together during the summer. He was quiet and kind, and I liked him a lot. It was a shock to me when my parents told me he was dead.

He was walking home from school that day when a young man was driving by and, in a moment every parent dreads, struck Andy and killed him. My young mind couldn’t really grasp it. I had just said goodbye to him an hour before, and by the time I got off the bus my friend was dead.

Can you imagine being his father or mother? As a parent now, I dread hearing those words that my child has gone where I can’t follow. No parent should have to endure that. No one should have to say goodbye to one they love.

So why are we separated from those we love at all? Can’t God do something about death? Can’t he give us an answer to suffering? Can’t he intervene and solve the problem of suffering? The answer is, He already did.

This conversation is a tricky one. I assume you have faced suffering of some sort. Maybe it’s losing someone you love too soon, or some evil has been done to you by others. The hardest question to answer is why God allows those things to continue.

If you want to understand suffering and death, you need to understand sin. Without a concept of sin, you will never grasp what death and suffering are. Sin at its foundation is like petting a cat backwards. Except in this case your hand is your life and the cat is God’s moral code. If you’ve ever pet a cat backwards, her fur bristles and she hisses at you. Maybe she even tries to bite you or scratch you. If you do it enough she’ll leave you. But when you pet her the right way, she purrs.

Sin is like this. When our behavior and life choices run counter to the direction that’s been laid out for us, the moral code reacts and demands retribution. Sin, with a capital “S”, is the condition of humanity just as it is a single action by an individual. Sin requires payment in order to fulfill the moral code. Imagine if no payment were required to make a situation right. There would be no justice. There would be no fear of breaking the moral code because there would be no consequences. So, in order to have a moral code, there must be justice and there must be payment for sin.

God tried to make it simple for us in the beginning. He made the first people, Adam and Eve, and placed them in a garden where they had everything they needed to survive and thrive. There was only one rule. Imagine only having 1 rule to live by. How amazing would that be? My wife gives me more than 1 rule for using the shower.

God gave the first people only one rule – don’t eat from a particular tree. This makes you wonder why God made that tree at all? Why didn’t he make the garden with no rules and no tree to tempt them? The answer is, God is love. His nature is loving, and loving requires choice. If we’re made to be like God and be with God, God would want us to choose Him, and that requires an alternative to choosing him.

Now every time we sin, we’re just repeating the same wrong choice by our ancestors thousands of years ago. That sin requires payment. Remember – without payment for wrongdoing there can be no justice.

What if there isn’t payment? What if we just let the cat hiss and spit and claw at us and we stay ambivalent to the fact that we’re stroking it wrong? Eventually the cat will abandon us and walk away.

“Good riddance!” all the dog lovers say in unison. No, you’re missing the point.

When you’re abandoned, you die. Sin that is left unpaid for will bring about death and complete separation from God. Sin is the seed that grows into a tree, and death is the fruit that it bears.

Sin is the seed that grows into a tree, and death is the fruit that it bears. Click To Tweet

Then what is the payment for sin – what is the cure? God tried a system with the Jews to pay for sin. The payment was supposed to be the blood of animals – goats, sheep, cows, and birds. The system was called the Law, and it was meant to make us right with God and satisfy the moral code. The problem was that Sin was just too big a problem to deal with and no one could stay right. A person’s rightness with God only lasted until the next time they did something wrong, and if they’re anything like me, it would have taken about a second.

Because it was impossible to stay right with God, He decided to do something about it Himself. God loves humanity so much that He can’t stand the thought of losing a single one of us. He hates Sin just like every parent hates the sicknesses our kids get. He hates that it takes so much blood to make us right with Him. But instead of quantity of blood, like the Law required, God tried another tactic, quality of blood. Instead of the temporary payment from an animal, God provided a permanent write-off for all our sinful debt. It required God come himself and die in our place as the Son of God, Jesus.

God provided a permanent write-off for all our sinful debt. Click To Tweet

When we bring all this together, Paul says it like this in Romans.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And the wages of that sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What is your understanding of sin? Please leave a comment below and thanks for reading.

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