What is Sin?

I've heard so many competing definitions, and I'd really like to have a solid answer--what is sin?

Can Christians live above it?
Are Christians forgiven when they do it?
Do Christians lose salvation when they commit it?

If you've a good answer, please share it.

sin and self-awareness

"For all have sinned, and fallen short of God's glory."

It's a great definition, isn't it? Of sin, I mean. I like what you said about self-awareness. Some mystic somewhere said once that, "The greatest sin is my own existence." Christians can scoff at the 'wisdom of the pagans' if they want, but at the heart of the matter, I think this is the truth. When we are separate from God, as finite and mortal creatures must certainly be, then we are in a sinful state.

You said we are currently putting the world back in order, fixing the stupidity of people ignoring God. In a sense, I really really agree with you, in that I think this is a major part of the plan. Romans 8. But on the other hand, I spend a good portion of time despairing over the inevitable failure of this mission. People are people, and always will be. We will always have our flaws and failings. We will always and permanently exist (being mortal) ontologically separate from God. We can't LITERALLY be God, and human, at the same time. The two are just not compatible.

Jesus. Our example. Fully God and fully man. While I suspect that both of these claims are driven by Greek metaphysics rather than Hebrew revelation, I sometimes think that this indeed is the point we're supposed to draw from Christ's example, on the cross and elsewhere. The solution to sin is death and rebirth, a rebirth into an eternal form 'at the right hand of God.' There's a lot of stuff in John about this type of union, uniting with God through Christ, and uniting with Christ through His Body. Sometimes I wonder if maybe this is the answer to the problem of sin--losing our individual identities within the eternal identity of Christ. There's a cross for you ;) Do we then cease to exist? Or do we redefine our mortal existence? Could this slide too far in either direction? Yes. We could dismiss all notions of sin and therefore do whatever we want, seeing that we are One with the Father.

But the other obvious option has proven dismally unsuccessful thus far, and that is erecting a second law atop the first, a New atop the Old. This seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of the New Testament, to me, but it is the 'best' way culture has hit upon to provide a solid and consistent basis for Christian morality, which is looking at books written by practicing Christians and declaring them to be the foundation of Christian living, full of guidelines for avoiding sin and achieving righteousness. How is this answer any different than the answer Moses offered? Its not, really. Different form, same system.

Sin--how to avoid it...?
Why avoid it...?

I'll go to hell.
Because it's wrong.
Because it makes God angry.
It's bad for you.

Typical answers. I wish they still motivated me. Actually, I don't. I'm tired of living in that kind of fear. And angry about it, too. I was raised in terror of sinning, in a Christian tradition that taught the slightest sin would sever my salvation and send me straight to a fiery hell the moment I died. Just thinking about the long hours of internal agony makes me sick to my stomach, now. I was so terrified of saying, doing, thinking the wrong things--so terrified and so distraught at the impossibility of it all that I said (and my friends with me), "If I'm gonna sin and go to hell, I might as well sin big." Terror of hell is great for making converts, but terrible for making Christians.

So I think in the long run the 'once in grace' doctrines I was taught to fear as the devil himself are much healthier than the doctrines of sin that I was raised with; sure, people abuse their freedom in Christ, but at least they're aware of that freedom, and don't live with crippling guilt tearing them apart inside and out. 'Once in grace' makes spiritual growth and dialogue possible with God despite an acute awareness of personal flaws and failings, and it is the spiritual maturity that transforms a person and steers them towards God and away from sin--doctrines alone can't do that. Fear can't make a person righteous, only afraid.

So, that's enough for now.

Justin Staller - Moderator
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