What is sin?

16) What is sin?

Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world He created, rebelling against Him by living without reference to Him, not being or doing what He requires in His law – resulting in our death and in the disintegration of all creation.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (I John 3:4)

Human beings were created to live lives centred on God (just as our planet orbits around the sun). And just as the Earth is maintained in its orbit by the laws of gravity and motion, so our harmonious relationship with God would have been maintained by obedience to His laws.

The nature of sin

So what is sin? Sin is any disobedience to God’s law, any act of independence and self-will. We sin whenever our lives are no longer centred on God but on something or someone else (usually ourselves). Sin is fairly obvious when it manifests itself as deliberate rebellion, when we do something that we know we shouldn’t. The prime example is when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit on the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:11). But it can also show itself in more subtle ways: “If anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:17)

The consequences of sin

When we sin, we are no longer in harmony with God. And since the whole human race is in this condition, all the time, we cannot be in harmony with one another either. Human society is like a complex interweaving dance; if we do not all keep strictly to the rules and the tempo, we quickly end up colliding with and tripping over one another.

Our relationship with the rest of creation is also distorted. Instead of ruling it as God originally intended, as wise and benevolent stewards, we rule by forceful domination, exploiting its resources and damaging our environment.

And finally, we damage ourselves. We were not meant to die; but, as Adam was warned (Genesis 2:17), “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Whether our lives are short or long, every single one of us lives under Adam’s death sentence (Genesis 3:17-19).


Holy God,
Our lives are laid open before You:
Rescue us from the chaos of sin
And through the death of Your Son
Bring us healing and make us whole
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
                 (Collect for Ash Wednesday)

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