I have heard (and have had myself) two responses to the word sin:
- I am such a sinful person,
- That person is so sinful.
And in both cases, “sin” tends to mean “doing bad things.” I do so many bad things. That person does so many bad things. But what do “good” and “bad” mean in this case? I do so many things I think I shouldn’t do. That person does so many things I think they shouldn’t do. And for whatever reason, the list of things we shouldn’t do seems very long and, at times, very subjective.
This is why I appreciate remembering that sin is an archery term, as Steve shared with us this past Sunday. As a technical term, sin means “missing the mark.” We have a target we are aiming for, and sin means that we miss it. Sometimes that is a more useful way for me to view sin, missing my target. So what, exactly, is my target?
Tim Keel, pastor of Jacob’s Well Church in Kansas City, said in a sermon, “The more I think about my sins, the more I sin. The more I think about Jesus, the more I act like Jesus.” We are constantly tempted to make our Christianity a system of codes, rules, or laws. And while there are certainly things Jesus has commanded, we must remember that our ultimate goal as Christians is twofold:
- Love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds,
- Love our neighbors as ourselves.
The first means we have to accept that God loves us. We have to accept that, though we do things we don’t like or that others don’t like or that might even be against God’s commands, he still loves us. If all we aim for in ourselves is “sin,” then we actually deny Jesus’s death and resurrection. We say we are not good enough. That is not true. Jesus has saved us from our sins, which means we are now free to serve him out of love. If we miss our target, we can keep aiming for God.
The second means that we must not only accept that God loves us, but that he also loves other people. If we aim for other people’s sins, we have a tendency to see their sins more than we see how God loves them. This is why it is so important to love people, to serve people. When our interactions become personal, it becomes easier to see people as God sees them. They become human rather than concepts, people rather than “sinners.”
Overall, sin can be a difficult concept to grasp. In a world that constantly wants to define if someone is in or out, with us or against us, on the right side or on the wrong side, it can be easy to confuse sin with groups, attitudes, or behaviors that categorize people. But the main thing to remember is that sin is when we miss something, namely, when we miss loving God and loving others. Jesus said that all of the law rests upon those two commands. In the end, these commands should be our target.