Each evening just before falling asleep, my wife & i read a brief devotional together. We have been reading a book of daily devotions written by a man of great faith, and two night's ago the devotional message was about sin. That got me to thinking about the topic and wondering exactly what sin is. Is sin deliberately choosing to separate one's self from God? Is sin putting one's self at the center of one's existence, thinking of everyone and everything else as existing for one's own purposes? Is sin breaking a list of rules?
The idea that God is "keeping score," in essence "making a list and checking it twice" to determine "who's naughty or nice" is troubling. Yet, that's the concept many of us were taught: that God was to be feared because at the day of judgment there would be a reckoning for all the bad things we had done during our life on earth, that the good and the bad would be weighed in a balance. If there was not enough good or too much bad, we would be condemned to eternal torment.
What did Jesus teach about sin? He told the adulterous woman whose accusers were prepared to stone her that he did not condemn her and advised her to "go and sin no more." He called tax collectors to repent of their abuses and inspired those who came to follow him to return their extorted gains. His most condemnatory remarks were for those who made a great show of outward religion while the heart remained corrupt and for those who used religion for their own personal gain. Exploring what Jesus had to say about sin may lead to a better understanding of the nature of sin and God's reaction to our sins.
For now, the brief statement that Jesus made in the Lord's Prayer is enough: "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." My prayer for each of us is that we may be quick to forgive others so that we do not carry the burden of anger, hurt, and revenge.