The way we talk about sin almost all of the time is in terms of harmful or wrong actions. We point at certain ways we do things and we say that is sin and that is not sin. We ask questions like do you think homosexuality is a sin? Do you think it is wrong to drink? Do you think that it’s ok to swear? If we aren’t saying the word sin in these questions everyone knows what we are insinuating. We want to be able to label certain actions as right (righteous) and other actions as wrong (sinful).
I’m starting to see less and less of a connection after looking through the gospels, reading through the letters of Paul and in my own experiences with this kind of understanding of sin. I’m starting to despise the ‘do you think this is sin’ question. I don’t think sin was ever meant to be used primarily as a descriptor of actions. Instead, I think it is used (from my quick observations) chiefly as a descriptor of a condition. We can’t categorize every thing that happens into a sin or non-sin category. What about all the mundane activities, like drinking coffee or sleeping, do we really want to put a righteous or sinful label on those? What about those hard to answer situations, like the disabled person who punches his worker in the face, or the person who gets drunk because it relieves unbearable pain, or the guy who claimed to be God who ends up bringing hundreds of gallons of wine to a party for everyone to ‘enjoy,’ or the homeless man who steals bread to care for his family or the person who pulls the plug on his dying mother to save her from any more pain or the person who was born not as any specific sex marries someone. Are we really going to point at these things and scream SINNER?
I don’t think the point was ever to be sin as in actions. When Christ came and paid for our sin, he paid for our condition. When we are told to sin no more, he means to go and not live in light of our condition anymore. Trying to stop a ‘sin’ is a hard to do because we are so focused on certain actions, when really we just need to live in the Spirit and these actions are slowly transformed by God, not by our efforts.
I get the question all the time asking me what I think about homosexual marriages, or do I think homosexuality is wrong. The questions are getting even bigger. Do I think pre-marital sex is wrong, do I think getting drunk is wrong, do I think doing drugs is wrong (after all it clearly says in the Bible that these actions are prohibited, right? Cough cough). My answer now is I don’t understand the question. I don’t think I can reduce a condition to all these separate actions and answer each one specifically. I have thrown off the sinful nature, and brought on a new nature. That doesn’t mean that I have changed all my actions and replaced them with new ones (though maybe that is a result). I’m trying to understand this more clearly, maybe some comments would be helpful to get a better understanding of sin.
I think there is a lot of negatives to having this solo view of sin also. If we think sin is reduced to an action, then all of sudden the categories that we all place people in widen. No longer is everyone a sinner. Now we have worse sinner, sexual sinners, drug sinners, homosexual sinners and the good Christian sinner. Everyone will say ‘ah yes, we are all sinner’ but really we’ve already elevated certain kinds of sin above others and created all these categories of the sins we are comfortable with and the ones that we are uncomfortable with and sins we think the bible abhors and those that it doesn’t. Don’t believe me? Just look at how much the church responds to the homosexual marriage issue when maybe a few percent of people in their churches ever have anything to do with homosexuals at all, and how little they will respond to other sexual issues such as pornography, masturbation, divorce and adultery which probably exists in more than three quarters (if not all) of the church. Our values lie in what makes us comfortable and it is comfortable to point our fingers at certain categories of sin. If there was no categories though, and we all existed in the same one, then I think things would be a lot different with how we treat other people. After all, Paul says we’ve all sinned and we all suck anyway, so why do we try to change it?