An Alternate Definition of Sin

by E.L. Anglin

Many people view sin as disobedience to rigid rules, like the Ten Commandments, written in stone. To them the Bible is an instruction manual, with failure to obey even one rule resulting in a loss of salvation. It is the sole arbiter of right versus wrong. While it's true that the Bible shows the way to salvation, there is no way it could detail all of God's expectations. Instead, detail gives way to principle, as we learn that sin cannot be reduced to rules and clauses.

Sin is the transgression of God's law. It's going out of bounds. It's going too far or not far enough. It's coloring outside of God's predefined lines. It's "missing the mark." It's failing to reach God's standard.

But sin extends beyond those traditional definitions.

The first human sin is a primer. Adam and Eve were given a clear directive. They were free to eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden but one. That tree was God's. It was off limits.

1. The couple's sin involved direct disobedience born of the serpent's temptation to doubt God's word. (Genesis 3:1) From this we learn that unbelief is sin.

2. The couple's most egregious sin, however, was born of the lust to determine good from evil. (Genesis 3:5) From this we learn that it is sin to believe we, not God, determine good from evil. It's the attempt to act as God, apart from God. It's the thirst to possess and employ equal authority without relationship.

The mindset is sinful.
The process is sinful.
The result is sinful.

The danger in holiness standards is that many are set in reaction to popular culture. Rules are set in stone that outlive that culture. Rules to which one's salvation is attached by church authorities, who fall to the temptation to determine good and evil. Their rules become more rigid than God's.

As time lurches on, and culture changes, religion becomes forever stuck in a weird time warp, bound to the decade in which it was birthed. The rules are invalidated, but held dear, because of tradition.

-Though jewelry was never biblically forbidden, men determined that it was evil.
-Though make-up is never biblically deemed sinful, men determined it was for prostitutes only.
-Though television can be good or bad, men banned it outright.
-Though the Bible never mentioned pants, men determined female slacks were immodest.

It is possible to obey all of these standards with pure motives. It is also possible to view standards as a substitute for relationship. To hold them up to God as proof that He owes us for our obedience. At that point we've become holier than God. He becomes a slave to our rules. A magic genie who can be summoned by our long, uncut hair, offerings, lack of jewelry, etc.

God has expectations. Follow them. But don't mistake your expectations with His. Don't force your preferences on others.

The Bible is a love letter, not an instruction manual.
Jesus fulfilled the Law's demands for us. He is our perfection.

As a Christian your only obligation is to:

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40 New Living Translation


This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.


Page added February 16, 2015

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