What is sin and how can we avoid it? One common way to define sin is to say it’s an action. An example of this is stealing.
Now, stealing is, of course, a sin, but sin is more complicated than that. If we view sin as simply an action that harms someone, and try to avoid it at all costs, we become paralyzed.
Sin is much deeper than an action in fact, it’s at the very core of who we are.
A friend of mine once asked my dad, who is a pastor, if stealing a sign from our college would be a sin. My friend’s justification for stealing the sign was that he had paid to attend the school and for that reason, had a right to the sign. According to his logic, he already owned the sign.
This is often what happens when we view sin as an action. Instead of trying to avoid the action, we find ways to justify it. We’ve all done this, whether it’s believing we deserve something we don’t, or manipulating scripture to say what we want it to.
My dad’s response to my friend was that he had already sinned, just thinking about it. You see, sin is not just an action; it is also the thing that causes us to believe we are justified in doing the action.
For this reason, there is no way for us to avoid sin. Sin is as much a part of who we are as the blood running through our veins.
This may not sound like good news, but it is. Here’s why: In our baptism and through Christ’s death, we have been washed clean of all our sin, past present, and future.
Does this mean we are without sin? Yes and no. Yes, in that our sin rests with Christ on the cross; and no, because sin still destroys our relationships to one another.
My friend did eventually take a sign, but it was after the school had thrown them away so it didn’t cost them any money, and it allowed him to share his new understanding of sin. I actually have that sign hanging in my house as a constant reminder that sin can be an action, but we cannot be paralyzed by fear instead, we must live free, knowing our sin rests on Christ’s shoulders.
We all make mistakes, but this doesn’t mean we should give up. Instead, we should live to the fullest, doing everything we can for those around us. When trying to do what is right, we may stumble and make a mistake. The key is to remember that God is with us, whether we fall or not.