In an earlier post, I tried explaining the concept of goodness; what it is and what it tells us about the nature of God. So for the sake of equal time, let’s examine the flip side, that which is commonly referred to as “sin.”
If, as I said in the earlier post, we define “good” as “that which God likes,” then a safe starting point for defining sin is “that which God doesn’t like.” But that’s kind of broad blanket to throw over the topic, isn’t it? If we’re talking about what to do to stay off The Almighty’s bad side, we probably want to be as specific as possible.
The concept of sin is, I think, one of the most misunderstood in Christianity, by believers and non-believers alike. We tend to look at sin in terms of entries in a ledger. A sin–singular–is a discreet incident, some particular thing we do or fail to do. Each one adds to the tally of our wretchedness and makes us less worthy of God’s blessing. While this is one way to look at sin, and overwhelmingly the most common, I think it gives short shrift to Christ’s sacrificial gift of salvation.
Because if our sin is just the accumulation of the bad things we do, then the foot of the cross was just a big eraser. God came to earth in the form of a man and lived and died for the sole purpose of playing good cop and tearing up our speeding ticket. Not having to pay the ticket is nice and all, but was it really worth all that trouble? It turns out that what He’s given us is much more than that.
In the New Testament, the Greek word that is translated as “sin” doesn’t mean “to break the rule.” It means “to miss the mark.” It’s a term that was often used in archery to describe a shot that fell wide of the bullseye. That’s a much better way to look at the concept, because I think that’s closer to how God looks at it. He didn’t create a list of sins to give Himself reasons to drop thunderbolts on us. He wants to drop blessings on us, but we miss out on them because of our sin.
So now we have two gifts as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross: it not only absolves us from the punishment for sin, it clears the way for us to receive the blessings of the sinless. You’d be willing to settle for that, right? But wait, there’s more!
Think of the archery example again, but think of the sin as applying not to the archer, but to the arrow. The archer can try again and again, sin more or less each try, and improve himself as he goes. But once an arrow strikes the target outside of the bullseye, its fate is sealed. It exists in a state of sin, and in a state of sin it will remain.
That’s like us. We exist in a state of sin, fallen, separated from God. We have failed to be all that God wants us to be; we have missed the mark, and there’s nothing we can do about it until an outside force exerts itself on us to change our state. That’s what Jesus does on the cross.
However great our sin, however far short of the mark we have fallen, Jesus bridges the gap for us. His gift is to remove us from a state of sin–a state of eternal “fallen shortedness”–and place us at the center of the source of all good things, His Father.
When Christians say we are saved from sin, that doesn’t just mean that a lot of stuff we’ve done is wiped from our permanent record. It means that we are transformed through Christ. When we understand what exactly we’re being saved from, it makes the gift that much more amazing.