What Is Sin?

Christians often throw around terms you might only be familiar with if you grew up attending church, but sometimes even Christians don’t know what they mean. So let’s go back to basics and talk about some of the foundational ideas that people talk about but don’t always understand when they discuss Christianity. One of the most basic terms is sin.

What Is Sin?

Sin is something God hates because it causes harm to us or others.

But isn’t sin supposed to be something that we’re not allowed to do?

You may have heard other definitions of sin in the past. The most common idea of sin is that it’s something God tells us not to do. A similarly prevalent definition is that it’s something God will punish us for doing.

But two key elements are missing from those depictions of sin:

  1. The fact that God is good and always has our best interests at heart because He loves us deeply.
  2. The fact that sin is not limited to “doing bad things,” but can also include not doing good things, or doing good things with bad motives, or a multitude of other, more subtle attitudes and behavior.

A lot of people have heard or been taught that God is fierce, angry, and judgmental. They believe He is scrutinizing you from heaven, waiting for you to screw up, so He can smugly punish you for your mistakes.

God is not sadistic.

Psalm 145:8-9 says,

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.
The LORD is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.

Because God is compassionate, He doesn’t want you to hurt yourself or others, so He tells us not to sin.

Some examples of sin include:

Loving anything or anyone more than you love God

This is a sin because only God is God, and no other relationship can be substituted for your personal relationship with Him. As long as you remain in Him in a close, intimate relationship, you will be filled with peace, love, joy, and blessings. But when you are neglecting your relationship with Him, you can’t be filled up with the things that only He can give you, and eventually your spirit will be running on empty, starved for what it needs from Him.

Depending on anything or anyone to provide for you instead of God

This is, at its heart, idol worship. (An idol is a false or man-made god that people choose to worship instead of the real God, even though idols have no power to save.) When you turn to TV or food to comfort you instead of God, you’re worshiping an idol and sacrificing your time and your health to a god that cannot save you. When you put your trust in money, a job, or people instead of God, you’re placing them in the place where only God belongs, because God promises to take care of you.

Agreeing with lies instead of truth

Every word God says is true. When you agree with a lie, however, that opens the door for demons to come in and bother you. The truth will set you free, but believing a lie can keep you from your destiny. God hates lies and hates the damage that they do to you. He is for you and intensely desires your success, and He doesn’t want your destiny or your identity to be sabotaged by lies.

Hurting yourself

God loves you. He wants you to see yourself the way He sees you – and He’s very much in love with you. If you have trouble loving yourself, ask God to help you, and He will.

Hurting Others

This includes the obvious sins like stealing and murder, which cause clear damage to others. But it also includes more subtle sins like envy – because envy warps your attitudes about the person you are jealous of and poisons your relationship with them.

It includes “sins of omission” – or sinning by not doing something – like neglecting to help people when they are in need. It includes withholding love from someone or choosing not to forgive them.

But even sins that hurt others come back and hurt you.

Envy will rot your heart. Unforgiveness gives demons the legal right to torment you.

God hates sin because He loves you.

Sin, when left unchecked, will ultimately destroy you.

God loves you with an intensity and a passion more powerful than you can grasp, and He hates what will mar, wound, torture, and kill you.

In fact, He loves you so much that he sent His Son, Jesus, to save you from the death that comes from sin.

John 3:16-17 says,

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

In John 12:47b, Jesus says,

I have come to save the world and not to judge it.

Jesus doesn’t want to judge you. He wants you to stop sinning so you can finally be healed and whole.

Join the Discussion

What definitions of sin have you heard? Does your understanding of sin change when you think about it in the context of God’s love? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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