“Sin” is a big word, much bigger than most of our small notions about it. Sin has been described as “giving in to temptation,” “missing the mark” and “trespassing against God or other human beings.” The Bible has a lot to say about sin.
Everyone sins. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul declares that “there is none righteous, no not one”(3:10) and “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (3:23). John boldly asserts that “if we claim we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I Jn 1:8).
People of faith continue to struggle with sin. Some errantly believe that when a person makes a profession of faith or joins a church, that person no longer struggles with sin. Actually, the epistle of I John is written to people who are already believers and followers of Christ. Converted people need to experience forgiveness and exercise grace continually.
Sin comes in many shapes and sizes. We should not limit our understanding of sin to a narrow list of don’ts. The Ten Commandments give us varied examples of sin, but even that list is exemplary, not exhaustive. Idolatry, stealing and adultery are all sins, but so are jealousy, envy, backbiting, boastfulness and uncontrolled anger.
In fact, the Bible even tells us that “anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (Jas 4:17). The biblical concept of sin involves a wide range of deceitful and destructive behaviors including moral indiscretion, social injustice, spiritual infidelity and personal apathy.
Be careful not to judge others. Foremost, we recognize that God alone is the ultimate judge. But we must also understand that sin is too deceptive and diverse for any of us to peer into the lives of other human beings and accurately identify their particular sins. In fact, judgmentalism itself is a sin.
Forgiveness comes from God. Although we are not equipped to accurately pinpoint the sins of others, we are equipped to come to terms with our own sinfulness. Once we recognize our sin, we choose to either continue in our sin with disregard for conscience and conviction, or we choose to turn from our sin and seek forgiveness. I John 1:9-10 reads, “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Sin affects every human being. Sin not only deters individuals from realizing their full potential, but if ignored or trivialized, sin can destroy nations, sever friendships and erode families. “Sin” is indeed a big word. Don’t let it destroy you.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Georgia.