Have you ever really bothered to sit down and think through the concept?
Let’s be honest: the mere mention of the word brings to mind a stupendously long list of things – fun things, no less – that you’re not supposed to do.
The rules you shouldn’t break.
The laws you must not ignore.
The behaviour you’re not allowed to engage in.
All the things you really want to do, but can not. Or at least should not.
Sounds about right, doesn’t it?
Others take it even further, turning sin into little more than a convenient stick with which to beat those who don’t share their worldview – a nifty little list of blacks and whites by which to judge others. Condescend and condemn, seems to be the modus operandi of those who use it as their weapon of choice.
Of course, the Bible does give us some clear indications of the kind of behaviour that separates us from God. His standards, it appears, are infinitely higher than ours. But it’s also important to realize that the biblical idea of sin is altogether richer than the one-dimensional list of thou shalt nots we often associate it with.
Just take a look at the word most often used for “sin” in the New Testament – the Greek word “hamartia”. It has quite an interesting history.
It would have been well known at the time as a word pointing to an error, or mistake. But it was used in a different context long before then.
It was, originally, an archery term.
Hamartia was the word used when an archer aimed for the bull’s-eye, but missed. Sometimes, it was used when the arrow hit the outer ring of the target. It was especially used when the arrow fell short of the target.
In short, hamartia meant missing the mark.
See where I’m going with this?
Let me explain with a simple example: When you go out and buy a brand spanking new flat screen LED TV, you’re free to use it as you wish. You could use it as a bodyboard during your next trip to the beach. You could install it at home as a gate to your garden, or use it as a tray in the kitchen. All those things could work in the short term – hey, they could even be a whole lot of fun. Ultimately, though, you’d be missing the mark. In the long run, you’re bound to end up with a useless piece of trash, and you’ll never have an idea of the amazing entertainment you lost out on.
Of course, you could complain to the manufacturer for spoiling your fun. Why on earth would they not allow you to use their product as a bodyboard? Why all the constraints? You could spend weeks shaking your head at the long list of ridiculous rules in the owner’s manual.
If you were really clever, though, you’d simply hook it up to your surround sound system, take out a couple of Batman Blu-Ray discs and have a blast. When you use it for its intended purpose, the owner’s manual, with all its user guidelines, becomes a way to maximize your enjoyment. It becomes a way to ensure that you don’t miss the mark, but instead have as much fun as possible.
Here’s the deal: God created each of us with a purpose. When we live our lives in ways that accomplish that purpose, we thrive. We live our lives to the full – because we’re living in the fulness of what he has created us for.
However, when we live our lives in ways it was not intended to be lived – when we miss the mark – we end up being a fraction of what we can be. In the long run, our lives become second-rate versions of what they were supposed to be.
That is what sin is. Way more than a mere list of taboos, sin is about missing out on God’s intended purpose for our lives. Far from a list of constraints, it is about helping you maximize your enjoyment of life, instead of robbing you of it.
Seen that way, sin’s potential power over our lives diminishes. Instead of spending our time arguing about what is supposed to be regarded as sin and what not, we’re left with a really simple question: Is what I’m doing right now in line with God’s purpose for my life, or am I missing the mark?
Let’s not forget: God is a God of freedom. He is a God of grace. He is not primarily concerned with rules and regulations. He simply wants you to lead the best life that you possibly can – the kind of life that he has envisioned for you from the start.
Anything that detracts from that is not only a shame – it’s a sin.
I’m making this up as I go along, and I hope to add a lot more to what’s on offer on this blog. If there’s anything you’d like me to add, or if you have any comments, feel free to drop me a message at email@example.com.