The mistake of viewing sin as a “mistake”
Sin is an uncomfortable word. So uncomfortable it is rarely used anymore. Practically abandoned. It’s even rarely used in churches. Christ-followers don’t like the reminders the word sin brings and non-Christians don’t really comprehend the meaning of the word. Most dictionary definitions sum up sin in this way: “an offense against religious or moral law; a transgression of divine law; an action that is felt to be highly reprehensible.” From this you can see that the word “sin” most commonly has a religious connotation. So for “non-religious”people who have no submission to religious principles or affinity for God, they see the term as both archaic and inapplicable to them. Don’t bother to tell them that Jesus elevates sin beyond an “action” to include our thought lives. (Matt. 5:28) Ouch!
To the non-religious, verses such as Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” are irrelevant. They don’t know God or what his glory or “standards” might be. They don’t want to know. This would confuse their lives. We all start out in that frame of reference, don’t we? “There is no-one righteous, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10). Traditionally, however, the starting point for the Christian faith is an accusation: “You’re a sinner!” Most everyone would acknowledge that they are not perfect, but a “sinner?” That would imply being a rule breaker or transgressing some moral “code,” a code which is not something the non-religious would uniformly ascribe to.
In contrast, a “mistake” is an error in action, calculation, opinion or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness or insufficient knowledge. “Mistakes” are accidental, whereas sin is intentional. Sometimes we plan our “mistakes.” What do you call a “mistake” you have made on purpose? What’s the best term to use to describe a “mistake” you make on a recurringbasis? What do you call a person who plans and carries out the same “mistakes” over and over? A “serial mistaker?” That’s an important difference, wouldn’t you agree? Have you ever experienced the inadequacy of labeling something a “mistake?”
In a purely secular sense, a sinner is anyone who knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses to do wrong. This limited understanding is completely void of acknowledging that there is a Sovereign who has established the world and the principles by which he deems it should operate. Sin harms our relationship with God and our relationship with other people. While I would not advocate thumping a Bible from a soapbox on a street corner and railing about sin and condemning sinners (which Jesus did not do either), I believe we have an obligation as part of our witness to the holiness and grace of God not to be afraid to identify sin for what it is, whether we are in community with believers or non-religious people. They need to know as we need to know, that there is a loving God in heaven who also will one day judge the sins of the world, yet so that you and I do not end up subject to his wrath, he has made a provision for peace and acceptance through Jesus. We must stop being timid about acknowledging our God and standing with him in both his standards and his appeal for reconciliation. We are talking here about pathways that lead to eternal life or eternal death, to peace with God or inevitably horrible separation from him.
It takes more than just guts to be forthright with people about the spiritual path they travel. God will one day judge and avenge. That’s his prerogative and he has said he will do just that to preserve his justice. We are to be his ambassadors of truth and reconciliation.(2 Cor. 5:18-20) We must see the world and the consequences of sin with a compassionate heart, just as God does, and be a potential instrument to healing, heavily saturated with a grace like God’s.
In the gospel accounts, it’s marvelous to see how sinners were welcomed by Jesus and were drawn to him. Jesus was able to communicate righteousness to them and draw them into relationship with him not by condemnation, but through truth and love. He never swept sin under the rug as he swept sinners into the kingdom. Jesus and the New Testament writers had no problem with using the word sin to identify where people needed re-alignment to God’s principles and patterns of living. They heralded caution. Because of sin, we all start life broken off from God. People desperately need to honestly hear what it takes to bring us back to him. Have you earned the right to speak into the lives of others? Are your words those of grace andtruth? Think About It.