If you go into any Christian Sunday School and ask the children to give you the definition of the word sin, you will probably receive a variety of answers along the lines of “sin is when you break God’s laws”. The dictionary definition of sin is “deliberate disobedience to the known will of God”. These definitions are quite straight forward, and from this it is easy to identify particular sins that we, as Christians, should not commit. For example, adultery, theft, murder, and telling lies.
We also know that we all sin, and need to ask for forgiveness on a regular basis. When you ask for forgiveness, do you sit there and think of all the times that you have told lies during the day? Or all the times that you said a cross word to someone? Is sin really as black and white as this? There is no doubt that these examples are part of wrongdoing on our behalf, but the Bible takes it not one, but two steps further.
First of all, Jesus made it clear that it is not just the action of a sin that is wrong, it is also the thoughts that lead to a sin that are wrong. In his sermon in the Book of Matthew he says the following:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
As soon as your heart has decided that you want to sin, and that you are intending to sin, you have in fact already committed the sin. In the eyes of God, you are guilty.
James tells us this as well:
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
Its clear again that sin starts in the mind, and the desire to sin leads us immediately down the wrong path.
You may be thinking however that its rare for you to be in such situations. Whilst Christians do commit sins, I think the majority would not premeditate murder, theft or adultery except in extreme circumstances. Do you ever find it difficult to come up with sins to ask for forgiveness for? Many of us have “normal” days, we get up, we go to work or school or look after our families, we do a days work, eat our evening meal, maybe do an activity or watch some television, and then its off to bed. We don’t actively sin, or face terrible temptation. We are just going about our everyday lives.
This is where step two of Bible teaching comes in.
Sin is not always about what we do. Sometimes its about what we don’t do.
Have you ever left any of the following undone?
Visited a sick person at your church
Taken the opportunity to tell a friend or colleague about God
Used your leisure time in a way that forwards God’s purpose
Earnestly desired the kingdom of God to come soon
Thanked God and Jesus for blessings in your life
Attended church with joy in your heart and a strong desire to worship God
These are examples of things that we ALL leave undone every single day. We sin by NOT doing things – probably a lot more readily than we commit the active sins mentioned earlier.
And we are not alone. See what the apostle Paul says:
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19)
We all fight daily against apathy, against the human condition, and against our weak human natures. Yet God will forgive these sins as readily as any others. All we have to do is ask him for his grace and forgiveness, and pick up our crosses again, and follow Jesus once more:
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” (2 Timothy 2:11-12)