The Christian Story – III. Sin

(continued from part II. – The Fall)

But sin didn’t stay as a simple breaking of a rule. It spread throughout the whole of man, and became a part of who he was. He didn’t just commit a sin; he was now a sinner, by nature and not just action. After this event in the garden happened, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Genesis 6:5). Sin was so thoroughly now a part of man that it infected not just the way he acted, but the way he thought, all the way down to the deepest motivations of his heart.

Another way the Bible describes sin is as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). This is who man naturally is now. He is a lawless rebel, caring nothing for what God says, and who now lives his life in total defiance of God. He now tries to decide for himself what is right and wrong, what he should worship, and everything else about his life.

The one who was created by God, gets his life and breath from God, and should live his life to God, is now a “child of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). The problem is not primarily wrongs committed against fellow human beings, but against God. The problem is not because man needs self-actualization, or because he lacks self-confidence, or that he is simply not living up to his full potential, or that he is isolated from other human beings and suffers broken relationships, or that he doesn’t have enough knowledge. The problem is that he is now an enemy of God. And we must remember that this problem is not just in what people do, but who they are. So because God is completely morally perfect, and because who he is and the way he acts as a person actually defines what “good” even means, and since sin is a breaking of his intent for our lives as expressed through his law, sin is also relational. It is the denial of the creator/creation relationship that makes us enemies of the God we’re created to love. Every way that people naturally relate to God is sinful.

In the religions that really recognize that something is drastically wrong, and even try to please some sort of god or supernatural force, the way it is said to accomplish this is by things that they do. Some people try to do this by denying themselves pleasure, fasting, inflicting pain on themselves, and other means of asceticism. Others do so in seeking to do good to their fellow man. They hope that God will look on these things and be pleased, or at the very least that these ‘good’ things that they do will outweigh all the bad that they’ve done. But like we’ve already seen, the main problem isn’t in what we do, but in who we are. Man’s thoughts and deeds are only evil, all the time, Genesis 6:5 says.

So even when men try to do good, they actually do evil, because their intent is to bribe God by the things they do, in order to avoid punishment, whatever that may be. Or, instead of bribing him, they try to obligate him to be merciful by showing what good people they really are. They actually show they have no idea just how bad the problem is, to think that by good deeds or harshness to their own bodies that they can make up for the evil they’ve done. They think the solution can be found in themselves, but really, that’s where the problem is. All human religion sees the problem as outside of them, and the solution inside of them. But the opposite is true: the problem is inside them, and the solution outside.

(next to come: What Does Sin Deserve?)