What is sin and How do we know?

“If God no longer holds our sins against us, then what is sin?” (Bruced)

“The question is “then why sin?” Why embrace a thing that is not godly once you have received the grace of God?” (JJ)

“Who here has no sin?…According to God, sin no longer exists. Certainly, there are things we will do that harm ourselves and/or others, but the penalty for that is of this world, not of God. He only sees Jesus when he looks at His creation. Jesus covered it all, and made it all new, fresh, and clean in God’s eyes…Causing harm to ourselves or others might be stupid and painful, but it has no effect on God’s view of us. Through Jesus, we are righteous to God, fully redeemed and fully forgiven forever…Sadly, not even the christians believe that.” (Bruced)

That age old question of ‘sin’. I have my opinions on it but what do you think? How do you define ‘sin’? Does the standard change with time? Is ‘sin’ something that has been ‘finished’? Tell me, what are yout thoughts about that word ‘sin’?

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5 thoughts on “What is sin and How do we know?

  1. “Whatever is not from faith is sin.”
    Romans 14:23b

    Narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it!

  2. When I think of sin I can usually break it down to a very simple thing ‘loving others as we love ourselves’ – once we move away from good and healthy relationships we find ‘sin’ – in that we hurt another with whom we have no explicit right to do so (not from our faith’s teachings or from the other’s consent). I think in love is the idea of protecting and caring for the other – it’s when we deny ‘love’ we find that we are embracing other ideas that help us to become estranged from another (so we committ sins against one another). I think sin is onyl found within the human bond – one with another.

  3. Definitions of sin in Christian circles varies from culture to culture. In England, conservative evangelicals go to the pub for a drink, some beer or wine, after church. South Koreans regard drinking alcohol as a sin, although they practice acupuncture and martial arts, which are often seen as demonic by Malaysian Christians. Nudity in the USA can be seen as a sin by many conservative evangelicals, whereas conservative evangelical Christians in Sapporo, Japan have been known to visit mixed gender nude hot springs with their whole families, including the pastor and visiting missionaries. In closed Brethren churches, visiting the cinema is a sin, as well as having one’s hair uncovered if you’re a woman. In other churches, women can have their hair uncovered, but men with long hair is deemed unacceptable.

    Therefore what is or is not a sin is very much relative to the culture concerned. Sin has much to do with Cultural Morality. Morality is a system of ethics that must one conform to in order to be accepted into that particular culture or society. For example, a woman going to church with her breasts uncovered in a Zambian village is fully acceptable, and therefore not seen as sinful. However if the same woman were to do the same in Dallas, Texas, she would not only be seen as sinful but be arrested by the police as well.

    Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.

    In it’s simplest form, to sin is to disobey a commandment believed to have come from God. Paul believed that Adam sinned when he disobeyed God’s command to not eat of the tree of knowledge. The wages of this sin, was death (not Hell – an eternal torture chamber – as some Christians believe).

    The first culture for us to deal with is Israel. Sin can only be defined by the Torah. Anything that violates the 613 Mitzvot or Commandments of Torah is a sin. It is these 613 Laws that define what it means to be an Israelite, and anything that violates this, makes you liable to be be excluded by the culture.

    These sins include female menstruation, murder, eating pork or shrimp, stealing another man’s wife, wearing clothing of two different materials, failing to keep the period between Friday evening and Saturday evening (the Sabbath) holy or special, or giving birth to a child. (impure for 33 days if a boy, or 66 days if a girl)

    Sin was believed to be transferable from one object to another, which is why one cannot touch anything that has been touched by the sinful person, (for example a bed that a menstruating woman has sat on). This also explains why the sins of the nation could be transferred to a goat.

    In Israel these sins had to be dealt with by washing the sins away by washing in water, transferring the sins to an animal, or receiving the penalty for the sin which could be exclusion from Israel (such as people with incurable skin conditions), or death.

    So why do Christians not have to follow the same commandments that Israel did? This is because Jesus Christ gave a new commandment which replaces all the others.

    John 13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

    2 John 1:5 But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.

    As Christians, Sin is now defined as that which breaks the commandment of Love. If eating shrimp and pork breaks this commandment, then don’t eat it, but if it doesn’t break the commandment of Love, then eat as many pork chops and shrimp cocktails as you desire.

    It is the same with any other so-called sin, whether alcohol, acupuncture, martial arts, nudity or the sin of “fill in the blank”. If it is Love, then it is not sin.

    The context of 1st century Christian culture was both Israelite and Greek/Roman. Israel believed a man could have many wives, whereas Greeks/Romans believed in monogamy. On the other hand, Greeks/Romans had homosexual relationships that Israel did not abide by.

    Many Christians see polygamy as a sin, even though polygamy conforms to the Israelite Commandments. In fact, there is even a commandment concerning how to treat the first wife, if one marries a second.

    Exodus 21:10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.

    However, remember that the Commandments also condone selling one’s children as slaves, so just because something is in the Bible, and believed to be a commandment from God, doesn’t mean that we as Christians can go off selling our kids as slaves…why? Because we live by the Law of Love.

    The cultural morality in the 1st century church favoured Roman/Greek monogamy, but favoured Israel’s anti-homosexual laws.

    So the big question today is “Is homosexuality a sin?” The answer depends on how much you choose to agree with Paul and the 1st century church. Paul clearly didn’t agree with it. However, Paul also believed slavery was ok, and told Onesimus to go back to his master Philemon. Paul also believed that men with long hair and women without head coverings wasn’t right.

    However, remember that the apostles did not agree with each other on everything, and Paul clearly disobeyed the commands from James and the first Christian council in Jerusalem.

    Acts 15:28 (YLT) `For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, no more burden to lay upon you, except these necessary things: 29 to abstain from things offered to idols, and blood, and a strangled thing, and whoredom; from which keeping yourselves, ye shall do well; be strong!’

    If you chose to agree with Paul, then you will have to disagree with James and the whole Jerusalem council concerning eating kosher meat (non strangled). Most Christians today couldn’t care less how their beef is killed. In Romans, Paul clearly contradicts James and says it is fine to eat food sacrificed to idols. It seems that the only thing he remained in agreement with James was concerning whoredom.

    Christians today completely disregard the Jerusalem council, and choose to side with Paul on this issue, and only obey 1 out of the three “necessary things” that James wrote.

    Is it sin to disobey Paul or is it sin to disobey the Jerusalem council. Neither. It is sin not to follow the command of Jesus which is to love. Paul and the Jerusalem council is optional – meaning, you have the option to agree with council and the three “necessary things” and therefore disagree with Paul, or disagree with James, and agree with Paul (which is what most Christians have done).

    Therefore, is homosexuality a sin? According to Paul, yes. Jesus however does not mention that particular issue, and therefore if we are followers of Jesus rather than followers of Paul, we have to ask the question “Is it Love?” if not, then don’t do it. If it is, then it’s fine.

    This of course becomes a discussion on the “authority” of the New Testament. For Protestants (who only came into existence in the 17th Century) and Evangelicals (18th Century), the New Testament is the highest authority, with more authority than the Church.

    However, according to Orthodox Christians, the Bible derives it’s authority from the Church, and the Church is a higher authority than the New Testament. Why? Because it is the Orthodox Church who chose which books of the New Testament would be classified as Scripture. The Protestants inherited the Bible from the Roman Catholics, who inherited it from the Orthodox.

    Biblical Inerrancy and Infallibility is pretty much a Protestant thing, which therefore means it wasn’t an issue before the 17th Century.

    Basically…Sin is Anti-Love. Which means, I agree with you!

  4. “Therefore what is or is not a sin is very much relative to the culture concerned. Sin has much to do with Cultural Morality” (rene)

    You make a very good point here – this is true concerning cultural norms – things are different across the planet concerning sin. However, sin is something that is also dependant on the personal aspects of life – and how what we do effects others – based on the teachings we have been given.

    I do not think it is a sin for anyone to drink – even to drunkeness – that just doesn’t bother me. But the teaching exists ‘drunkards do enter heaven’ because Paul seen the problems behind drinking and what people would do to one another. Does every person that gets drunk do harm to another? No. But some do.

    The only difference is that if someone drinks and wants to hurt people – they are the ones in sin (breaking and ruining relationship with God’s creation – whom God loves). Someone can drink and never harm anyone – so I am not sure Paul’s idea concerning this is a ‘one size fits all’ but a rule of thumb to avoid sin.

    What’s my point? Sin is only a sin when it becomes something that harms another.

    “In it’s simplest form, to sin is to disobey a commandment believed to have come from God” (Rene)

    I do agree with you here – but the commandments exist for the benefit of humanity – not for the benefit of God. So one could argue God’s intention was for humanity to have some guidelines to conduct itself within…basis being humanity’s safety.

    “So why do Christians not have to follow the same commandments that Israel did? This is because Jesus Christ gave a new commandment which replaces all the others.” (Rene)

    I have to disagree here – in some regards. Jesus only gives a new commandment to those whom have never studied Torah – that teaching comes from Torah plain and simple (love one another – Lev 19:18). There is actually nothing new about that teaching.

    However, the real problem with your statement is duality. Jesus gives us new commandments which trump that of the God of Israel’s commandments – which evidently came from the very fingertips of God to Moses on Sinai (if we are literalists). Basically, Jesus becomes more important than God himself – and in most cases – God Himself.

    Where’s the problem….there are several.

    (a) Jesus did not teach against the Torah/Law (Matt 5:17-19) – and actually garnered his authority (which was his message) from the OT/Tanakh. I cannot think of a single teaching Jesus gives that is not based in Torah or Prophets – even his 2 great commandments and ‘treat others’ teaching all come from there – and acclaim authority to the Torah and Prophets.

    (b) Jesus, if he were giving a new commandment which usurps the old commandments, is telling God his commandments are weak. Problem solved if Jesus is God – which is very convenient – but then we have God declaring He was ‘wrong’ and needed to ‘right’ that wrong! Basically, it’s no different than when Joseph Smith declared polygamy okay and then later on another prophet declares is not okay – God is in the business of changing His mind it would seem.

    (c) You can end up with 2 God syndrome in this case – God of the OT and the God of the NT (which is Jesus). I actually do think this is slightly the case – but not by biblical directive – but later church commentary directive (being non-Jews and all – and looking at it all from a Greco-Roman perspective).

    “Is it sin to disobey Paul or is it sin to disobey the Jerusalem council. Neither. It is sin not to follow the command of Jesus which is to love” (Rene)

    I do not think it is a sin to dis-obey Paul at all – in early Christianity we have competing views – Paul’s views and Jesus’ view (which Peter, James, and John would be familiar with). It actually does shine through in the NT quite well – read Matthew and Paul’s works – quite different it would seem.

    However, you are right – the law is love and if you do things in love you will fulfill the teachings of Torah (which is the basis for Law anyways). Jesus great commandments and teaching of summation on Torah/Prophets are the same ‘treat people how you desire to be treated’ – which is basically ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. There are no 2 ways – there is only one way – that is to love…but how people choose to use that can vary (and I have no problem with that).

    But what needs to be noted the law is about love. Now the examples you gave – well – those were all seen as literal and not broken down from what the rabbi’s teach about concerning each law (there are a few interpretations and lessons to be learned). I have read some rabbinical teachings on some very tough laws (when read literal) – and they make sense when looked at concerning ‘intent’. It is problematic to read everything there as literal in my opinion – the conservative rabbi’s do not even do this (and this is their area of study).

  5. Pingback: Duality in the Christian Faith? « Losing My Religion

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