Here is another sadly and widely misunderstood term. The common understanding of sin is an act contrary to God’s law, particularly those tenets set out in the ten commandments. The consequence of such sin was believed to be divine punishment, and in order to avoid said punishment, it was necessary to pray for forgiveness and perform acts of penance. This notion of sin was money in the bank for the church in the early days because, for a price, a priest would be the conduit of God’s forgiveness. What wouldn’t one pay for release from eternal damnation?! Since the average person did not have access to the Bible in those days, Jesus’ teaching of the infinite mercy of a gracious God was easily hidden.
Martin Luther changed all that in the protestant reformation. The selling of indulgences, i.e. the selling of God’s forgiveness, gave way to the idea that we are saved by grace through faith, and a priest was not necessary to mediate God’s grace. No longer were people condemned to eternal damnation by their sins.
So much for our sins, but what about our Sin. The common understanding of sins is wrong doing, but much more important than our acts is the attitude and state of being in Sin. Some might define Sin as a state of estrangement from God, but given that our understanding of G-O-D is necessarily very fuzzy, this definition makes us none the wiser about Sin.
Sin is a coin with two sides: 1) failure to be all that one is created to be or 2) trying to be more than one is created to be. Jesus taught that to be part of the Kingdom of God (another term to be examined), one must be ‘perfect’ as God is perfect. If one is not perfect, one is in a state of Sin.
A more helpful translation of the Greek for ‘perfect’ is ‘whole.’ If one becomes whole, the kingdom is realised. Becoming a whole person means becoming who one was created to be, not more, not less; fully conscious, fully aware; a state that few, if any, actually reach.
It should be obvious at this point that Sin is nothing about which one should feel guilty or for which one should beg for God’s forgiveness. Sin is simply part of the nature of the human being. If there is original sin, then this is it; not any act of rebellion or disobedience, but simply the state of unconscious existence from which we begin. It is something to overcome, to be sure, not because it is wrong, but because it denies us life.
Sin does have its consequences, but the judgment of God does not result in divine punishment; rather, judgment simply means that we must suffer its consequences in life. Most of our choices are dictated by our unconscious mind, even when we think we are making the choice consciously. The state of not being fully conscious, i.e. not whole or ‘perfect’, means that choices are too often made that no good person would intend, and so people suffer. The consequences are not necessarily born by the person making the choices. In fact, often the innocent pay, so we have to understand ‘judgment’ falling upon us collectively, which is fair, since our Sin is collective as well as personal.
Given that sins are readily forgiven, and Sin is not intentional, the question arises: What, then, is served by Jesus’ death?’ See “Atonement” for a clue.