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The Purpose of Sin

January 17, 2013

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (From the Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law,tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” –The Gospel of Matthew, NIV

What is sin? It is a question that many people have asked. And like many questions that have been asked, there have been a lot of bad answers given. Sin has been described as “selfishness,” or “being out of alignment with my values,” both of which do not describe the Biblical concept of sin. Worse yet, others, usually nonbelievers, get the idea that sin is somehow related to fun– as Billy Joel sang “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/The sinners are much more fun.” Henry Fairlie responded to this sort of thinking by pointing out that whenever people say that sin is fun, what they usually mean is that Lust is fun, and even that leads down a road of misery.

I find that as Christians, we often don’t see the purpose of sin. It becomes easy to think of sin merely as a set of actions that we aren’t supposed to do. This at first sounds like legalism–don’t drink, smoke chew, or go with girls who do. But even when we are not legalistic in our thinking, when we are not forcing unbiblical standards onto others, we still treat sin as a laundry list of things you should not do. We miss the purpose of sin and the meaning of Christ’s redemption if we treat sin merely as a list of “don’ts.”

The devil does not want us to commit certain, arbitrary actions called “sin.” the devil wants to draw us away from Christ. Sin is not “bad”because of some mystical reason that no one can know about. Sin is bad because it keeps us from loving God and loving our neighbor. Sin is a blight on the way things should be. It draws us away from the reality that we should be working to achieve. Christianity is not a “religion” in the sense that it consists of a set of arbitrary rules that need to be followed to gain the gods’ favour–light the seventh candle, sacrifice a snow-white horse, and pray that Moloch will send the rain. Rather it is a relationship, a direct relationship between God and man. Christ came to save us from our sin, because it is our sin that keeps us away from him.

Current listenings: Brothers by The Black Keys

One Comment leave one →
  1. Stephanie House permalink
    January 18, 2013 2:51 pm

    Thanks for drawing together the relationship of sin to the greatest commandments. I would never have verbalized it in that way. It gives me a renewed understanding of how great my sin is in light of my relationship to God.

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