Most of our societies are governed by taboos and social norms. A taboo is something that is prohibited in a community, such as marrying a close relative. Social norms are values expected of every community member, and any violation is taken very seriously. Such violation is understood to pollute individuals and the community. This is evidence, as Romans 1 clearly says, that God has put inside each person a knowledge of sin. But what is “sin”?
God has put inside each person a knowledge of sin.
What is Sin?
King David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51 uses four words in Hebrew to describe sin:
- Pasha, which means revolt or rebellion (51:1, translated “sin”)
- Avon, which means perversion or moral evil (51:2a, translated “guilt”)
- Chatha, which means missing the mark (51:2b, translated “sin”)
- Ra, which means destruction or ruin (51:4, translated “evil”)
Rebellion, Perversion, Falling Short & Destruction
Sin starts with rebellion against God. It leads to a perversion of the good things God has created, and missing the mark of God’s moral standards. The result is destruction and ruin. All the descendants of Adam and Eve inherited a sinful nature. When we sin, we put our own thoughts and desires above all else.
For some people, rebellion against God may show itself by murder (Exodus 20:13). For others it may be adultery (Exodus 20:14). And some find that their rebellion shows itself in different ways, including idolatry. When God put the first man and woman in the garden, he gave them everything they needed for a rich and satisfying life. He gave them only one restriction: do not eat the fruit of one tree. Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan, put their own thoughts and desires above all else, and did the one thing God told them not to do. They ate the fruit.
Sin starts with rebellion against God. It leads to a perversion of the good things God has created, and missing the mark of God’s moral standards
Breaking God’s Moral Law
The Bible tells how God’s people should relate to him, to one another, and to the rest of his creation. The Bible clarifies what is right and wrong in the sight of God. This is called God’s moral law. If you do not do what pleases God, that is sin. “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). This makes every sin an act against God. Sinning against God consists not only of outward acts like stealing and killing but also attitudes such as covetousness, misdirected anger, and lust (Exodus 20:17; Matthew 5:22, 28). All sin is detestable to God, who wants us to do what is right and pleasing to him.
The Consequences are Terrible
All human beings are born with a sinful nature and an inclination to sin. And the consequences are terrible. Sin damages your relationship with friends, family, and business partners (Genesis 4:3-8). Sin damages your relationship with God’s creation (Genesis 3:17). It blinds you (2 Corinthians 4:4) and separates you from God (Ephesians 4:17-18). Sin corrupts your conscience (Titus 1:15; 1 Timothy 4:2). Sin corrupts your will (Isaiah 53:6). Sin spreads and grows (Matthew 16:6). It is like weeds in a garden. If not rooted out, it will soon overrun the garden.
Little acts of dishonesty and disobedience soon become habits you cannot break.
Little acts of dishonesty and disobedience soon become habits you cannot break. Ultimately sin destroys your life (Romans 6:16, 23). The apostle Paul realised he had a sinful nature, and he described it vividly in Romans 7:14-25.
A Remedy from God
But God in his grace and mercy has provided a remedy for our sinfulness:
- It begins with recognising your own sinfulness and your need for forgiveness, which only God can give you (see 1 John 1:8-10 and Mark 14:71-72)
- Then ask God to forgive you, turn away from your sin, and accept his forgiveness. This is called repentance (Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9). Let God’s Holy Spirit change how you think and act
- Have faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died for your sins and then rose from the dead. (Galatians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 9:26, 28)
When you make a conscious decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ, you will begin to stop making decisions based on your own passions and priorities and make decisions based on God’s passions and priorities.