Bill is a Bible college graduate who has turned his back on all organized religion. He exudes contempt and disdain for Christian leaders. We were classmates and stay in touch.
“Hey, man, remember when we studied the biblical doctrine of sin in Theology class?”
“Yes, but they’re not all good memories,” I replied.
“We were told,” He continued, “that the best definition of sin was ‘to miss the mark’. The mark was perfection, the holiness and righteous character of God! Anything and everything that didn’t measure up to that ultimate benchmark was sin. You want to know something strange? I’ve never felt guilty about not meeting that standard of God’s perfection and I’ve never met anyone else who felt guilty about it either.”
What this frustrated Christian is trying to put his finger on is enormously important. The Bible uses over fifty different words for sin. These are not specific sins like lying, stealing, cheating, or murder. Rather these words describe the underlying attitude of the heart from which symptomatic sins flow.
The prophets were given the job of spelling out the problem of sin. They were amazingly creative but we must remember that they were being directly led by the Spirit of God to write exactly what they wrote.
Here is some of their vocabulary for sin:
Trespass, Transgress, Arrogance, Stubborn, Unrighteous, Wicked, To miss the mark, Defiance, Lawless, Disobedient, Ungodly, Blasphemy, Disdain for God, Iniquity, To act perversely, Rebellion, Rejection of authority, Refusal to comply, Independent self-sufficiency, Selfish pride, Evil, To twist or deviate, Self-centeredness
We must get our mental arms around this entire list. It is always easier and simpler to just select one. But let’s boil the whole list down.
What are all these words describing? What is the issue that they all address? May I suggest that this list points to an authority problem? It is all about resistance to God’s leadership and the obsession human beings have with doing their own thing. Perhaps rebellion would be the word with the broadest coverage of the whole subject of sin.
One thing is certain. This ‘rejection of authority’ definition still sparks strong reaction today. It strikes to the heart and stirs up either conviction or hostility or both.