Any genuine consideration of the text of the Bible inevitably has to consider the notion of sin. Depending on your translation the word “sin” occurs over 750 times. But we cannot mistake an awareness of a word with its comprehension. There are various words and terms in our own world that we encounter regularly and may not understand. If we want to have the sort of Christianity as is expressed in the New Testament, then we must understand the nature of sin.
One catechism describes sin in this way, “Sin is failing to keep God’s commands to be righteous and to not be evil. Sin is our rebellion against the character of God.” (Illuminance Weekly Memory Work, C.4, Q. 7) Sin is clearly a breaking of God’s commandments, but it is also a breaking of humanity’s relationship with God.
We often think of sin merely as doing a bad thing, or failing to do a good thing, but there is an inherent relational dynamic that can often be missed. You see, when we sin against God we are not coming against an arbitrary list than was written a long time ago. Instead we are standing against God’s law, which is a reflection of His unchanging nature. In other words, our sin is an act of rebellion against the character of God, which damages our relationship with God.
But you may know something about this already. Even if you’re not a Christian, you know how sins against one another have deep ramifications in our relationships. Looking simply at the second table of the Law, that is Commandments 5-10, we can see clearly how breaking those laws have deep relational ramifications from person to person.
If I break the 5th commandment regularly then my relationship with my parents, or those in leadership over me, is going to diminish. If I break the 6th commandment regularly then the relationship which will be destroyed is that of the victim in an act of murder. There will also be deep relational ramifications for those who were the victim’s friends and family. Continuing on, the 7th commandment naturally destroys the most intimate of relationships: that of a husband and wife. We also fail to consider its impact on the children, friends, co-workers, and other relevant spouses. And every example provided still doesn’t address the ever-widening relational chasm between a sinner and their God.
Sin is never neat. Sin is never compartmentalized. It bleeds out and poisons the environment wherever it may be found.
We indeed could continue but the idea remains clear: Sin is not only failing to keep God’s commands to be righteous and to not be evil. Sin is our rebellion against the character of God. This rebellion towards God is necessarily corrosive to every relationship by virtue of the fact that it fails to honor our chief need, which is intimacy with God. And so we return to the beginning: Sin is an act of rebellion that destroys relationships.
Whenever we sin we are inherently damaging our intimacy with God. Our outburst of rage, our indifference at suffering, our preference of our opinions over God’s, our worship of men and women, our desire to be worshiped and adored instead of God, our rejection of Christ, all of these have necessary relational implications. What does that mean? We are either drawing nearer to God or fleeing from Him. For insight on this latter point we need simply return to the Garden of Eden.
In the Garden, the consummative act of Adam and Eve’s descent into sin was their panic and dread culminating in their flight from the presence of God. “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:8 ESV) Sin had shattered that relationship. What was once a beautiful evening stroll between friends became an unbearable thought leaving our first parents in a swoon of dread. Many of you today may know something about that dread. Sin has made the thought of God crippling. Sin teaches us that God is merely to be feared, never loved.
Nothing we can do can mend our relationship with God. Sin has devoured us and we are shackled in the very belly of the beast, slowly being consumed. Yet God has not abandoned us to our own senses. God has not left us to what we deserve. We need only consider the great promises connected with the Lord Jesus Christ: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV) Christ has crossed that chasm that would have eternally kept us far from God. May we learn to delight in this nearness and Presence that is ours in Christ. May we rest in Christ today for His work in reconciling us to God forever.