This post is about sin.

No, not the Catholic Archbishop from the Philippines, Jaime Sin.  And not the trigonometric function.  And not the Semitic letter, which looks like a W but got tipped on its side to make a sigma, which became S.

No, we’re talking about the old-fashioned wrong thing.  Sin.  Badness.

At our small group the other night, the minister asked us to define “sin”.  Bettie looked at me and we smiled, because both of us had been to a church school, and had it drilled into our heads.  We could say it in our sleep.

Sin is a willful transgression of the known law of God.

I put it out there into the group as a definition (not the definition – my last name isn’t Webster, and that’s not what they were looking for).  We read through what Max Lucado said in his study guide on this week’s lesson, the fear of disappointing God:

To sin is to disappoint God, ignore His teachings, deny His blessings.  Sin is “God-less” living, centering life on the center letter of the word sIn.  The sinner’s life is me-focused, not God-focused.  And because the sinner’s life is focused inward, fear is rampant.  A sinful life is absent the bedrock of God’s grace, something we will only know when we look toward God.

Good stuff.  And then Poppa T, a wise man, read Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

He said that the two terms are not necessarily identical and interchangeable, but that it’s a good working definition: sin is falling short of God’s glory.

While this conversation is going on in the room, I am processing my rote definition of sin.  I am realizing that under that “known law of God” definition, I am always living in a legalistic state.  Everything gets compared to this “known law” thing.  Is speeding a sin?  What if it’s for a good reason?  What if there’s an emergency?  What if I’m a police officer or an ambulance driver?  Laws multiply to cover alternate situations.  We need an attorney to figure out whether or not we’re walking with God.  And that’s not the way it should be.

Wesley’s “willful transgression” puts the emphasis on my work, on me policing myself.  Plus, it’s not Biblical.  See Leviticus 4:13, 4:22, and 4:27 excerpted here:

If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally

When a leader sins unintentionally

If a member of the community sins unintentionally

Now maybe I’m reading it a little cater-wompus, but it seems like it’s possible for a person (or even a nation) to sin without it being a willful transgression.

So now what?  Are we to be like Paul, who does not even examine himself (1 Cor 4:3)?  Maybe, yes.  But that freedom is not license to sin.

Are we to be like King David, who danced before the Lord so exuberantly that he was “uncovered” (2 Sam 6:16-22)?  At times, perhaps.

Maybe we should be like Jesus, who says in John 5:19

the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner

and then in the same chapter, vv 22-23

the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

We need to be like Jesus.  We need to be Christ-like.  Doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Doesn’t mean it will be a walk in the park.  It may be a walk in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But it will be good, and it will be real.  It will be a friendship, not a courtroom.