What is Sin?
While reading articles on this site, you most likely came across the word sin. You may be wondering what exactly this term means. It is not a pleasant word, but its impact in our world and personal lives is enormous.
In a general sense, sin means “to miss the mark.” Picture someone holding a bow with its string pulled back ready to launch an arrow. The archer’s intention is to send the arrow flying to hit the bullseye at the center of the target, but as he releases the arrow, it drifts to the left and misses the mark. The Scriptures use the word sin in this exact context. Judges 20:16 records that the tribe of Benjamin had 700 left-handed warriors who were so skilled in using a sling that they could aim their stones at a hair and not “sin” or miss the target.
Most often, the Scriptures use the word “sin” for man’s actions in relation to God. “Sin is a violation of God’s standard for human behavior.”1 God’s standard for how we should conduct ourselves is like the bullseye of the target. When we fail to hit it, we sin.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17) contain several of God’s standards. Some of them are easier to obey than others, such as the commands against murder or stealing. These are the kinds of commands that make us think we are generally good people. When asked if he or she is a good person, some may respond, “Of course I’m a good person! I’ve never killed anyone!”
Other commands are much easier to disobey such as the commands against lying or coveting. It is all too easy to be asked a question about something that we do not want to reveal and give false information instead of the truth. These are the sins that we convince ourselves that missing the mark is not a big deal. This is how we continue the narrative that we are good. Someone may respond, “It’s just a white lie. Everyone does it, right?” and give himself a free pass.
While it is true that everyone sins, why are we so quick to be lenient to ourselves? Do we give others the same leniency when they lie to us? Instead of serving as a basis for ignoring sins, the universality of human sin is the reason why the Bible says it is important for everyone to find forgiveness and inner transformation. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, once said that everyone sins, even the most righteous person on earth (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Sin can have some disastrous effects on our lives, but the most devastating effect of sin is separation from God (Isaiah 59:2). God is perfect, which means that He cannot be in the presence of people who sin like us. This creates a problem for all of humanity, but there is hope! Jesus came to provide a way for our sins to be forgiven. In fact, that is the primary reason that Jesus came to the world:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned… (John 3:16–18).