Sin literally means, “to miss the mark.” Sometimes it is referred to as “falling short of the glory of God.” Sin is a corrupted or distorted reality; it runs amuck of goodness and righteousness. Sin is thus anything that does not align with God’s goodness by any degree. The problem is that today, many see application of the term “sin” as a pious religious condemnation of the one doing the sinning. This happens precisely because this is often true. Christians have thrown around the word “sin” with disgusting venom of condemnation that people feel slighted, jilted, rejected, and ridiculed by the use of the term. The recipients of such terminology rightly feel like defending themselves and others join in to support their cause.
The truth is that Christians have done the world an injustice in producing such negative connotation of this word. The truth is everyone misses the mark. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God and those who believe they have found forgiveness so quickly have forgotten that they are no different in worth to the Father than those who have not. In fact, Jesus said he would leave the 99 to go after the 1 that is lost.
The reality of sin is that it is a cancer to our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. Love does not rejoice in wrong doing, but in the truth. Love keeps no records of wrongs. A person who loves doesn’t relish pointing out another’s faults, but always hopes and preservers along side a person struggling in sin no matter the sin and no matter how long that road last even if they never change. Love always forgives. If someone is stuck in a muck of sin, love helps pull them out rather than point fingers at their dirt. However, if that person is content in their muck, maybe because they can’t see it, or does not have hope for freedom, love sits with them and shows them grace and compassion.
The only time Jesus rebuked someone was when he was talking to religious leaders who acted piously like they had it all together. When he came across a woman caught in adultery, he protected her from being stoned and said that he who was without sin was the only one who could cast stones at her, and He being that One extended mercy and grace to her.
This does not mean that God is complacent about our sin, for it concerns Him greatly, not because it hurts Him, but because it hurts us. That cancerous sin distorts our being and it weighs us down unnecessarily with baggage and bondage. Have you ever been really angry at someone who did something wrong to you and that anger just grew and caused a huge rift in the friendship and weighed you down? Have you ever experienced that freedom that comes when you forgive and release that anger? It’s a freeing lightness that most describe upon forgiving someone. It is like this with other sins, when they pile up and are continually happening in our lives they bind us and often times we don’t even realize how bound we are until we find release and then we feel like we can fly.
The good response to sin is compassion. It’s realizing that sin entangles and binds a person. It’s realizing that sin isn’t something to be scoffed at or offended by, but something to be saddened by and angry for the person not at the person. I sometimes get angry when I see someone trapped in sin, and it’s not anger at the person, but at the entanglement. It’s like finding a person tied to a tree with a gag in their mouth and being angry that they were hurt that way. We can’t turn things that are sin into non-sin because the person is more hurt by calling bad good and good bad then they are by correctly identifying the source of their pain and helping them free of it without any condemnation.
I think Christians have a lot to apologize to people for due to our unjust handling of sin. And I apologize as a Christian to anyone who has been hurt by Christians not showing them love. I have been such a Christian who has not responded with love where I should have. God has broken my heart for people trapped in sin. He has shown me through a very personal encounter with someone struggling in sin that broke me forever to be for people and not against them. He gave me compassion and love for those entrapped in vices that so easily entangle. Sure I don’t do this perfectly, none of us can, but I aim for this. As a Christian, I choose to stand along side those so ensnared and to never be against them.