It’s an ugly word.
I’m not particularly fond of it. It makes me… uncomfortable.
What about you? If you know the sermon’s going to be about sin, do you sit forward in anticipation, or lean your shoulders as far back into the pew as you can?
I’ve heard at least a dozen different explanations of what sin is over the years. These ways of explaining sin are often man-made and seem to somehow soften the blow of sin’s definition. Is it possible to describe sin in such a way that it actually becomes palatable? That it doesn’t make us uncomfortable? Um…yeah. It is, and that’s a scary thought.
There are different Greek and Hebrew words that get translated into sin in our modern English Bible. The Greek word hamartanó is the word most often used for sin in the New Testament. It’s a verb, too, which means it’s an action. Sin is something we do, not just something we talk about from a distance.
So what does hamartanó mean? Simply put, it means missing the mark.
For those of us living in the comfort of America with our cushioned chairs and 24/7 convenience, missing the mark doesn’t seem like a terribly frightening thing. It’s kind of like taking a wrong turn on the way to your favorite restaurant. Or turning in a school assignment a day late. There might be a teeny, tiny consequence, but it’s not a big deal.
We think of missing the mark as something that happens by degree. If God’s will is the white circle at the center, then there’s a whole lot of missing-the-mark gray that can happen between there and when we get to the really bad, serious stuff of sin (the black line around the outside of the circle).
That makes sense, right?
Only…it doesn’t. That’s not what it means to miss the mark.
When the mark is God’s perfect will for us, then anything we do outside of His will is missing the mark. There are no degrees. We’re either in God’s will or we’re not. We’re either walking as children of God, or we’re not.
Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It doesn’t say that most of us have kinda-sorta sinned and are just slightly outside the glory of God.
There is no gray area between being in God’s will and being out of it. It is black and white, and we’re all standing in the black. We have all sinned – every single one of us. There are no degrees here. This is reality. We have all missed the mark, and missing the mark means death (Romans 6:23).
So. Sin. It’s an ugly word. I don’t know about you, but it makes me… uncomfortable.
As it should.
But we’re talking about God here, and as we’ve established, He doesn’t do things by degree. He is, after all, the author and creator of grace.
We looked briefly at Romans 3:23 earlier. Remember? We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. Now let’s take a look at Romans 3:24. It tells us that we are justified by the gift of God’s grace through salvation in Christ.
When it comes to sin, it’s not about how bad we’ve been or how bad we are. Because – let’s face it – we’re all in the black on that one. The real story here is about how good God is.
God pours out His grace freely onto those who have who have committed their lives to Christ. He showers us with favor and forgiveness that we don’t deserve. He changes us from the inside out, and He transforms our hearts, making them new, better. He faithfully grows us day-by-day, never walking away or abandoning us, never giving up, and never saying, “Eh, today I’ll just kinda-sorta give maybe a little bit of grace to my child. Let’s pick a shade of gray…”
Just like He doesn’t see sin by degree the way we often do, God doesn’t do grace by degree. You’re either bathed in grace, or you’re not. You’re either a child of God, or you’re not. Remember our circles from further up in the post? Well here’s the one for God’s grace. If you’re a believer, you are standing smack dab in the middle of God’s grace, and you can’t escape it.
So why do we often live like grace comes by degree? Like we maybe only need a little bit today?
How we view sin shapes how we view grace.
When we think we can get away with a little bit of sin, then we start to think we only need a little bit of grace.
When, on the other hand, we begin to grasp exactly what it means to miss the mark, that’s when we begin to grasp the depth, breadth, and width of His grace. When we understand that the mark is God’s holiness and perfect will and that there is no way we can hit the mark on our own, that’s when we begin to see God’s grace for what it really is. God’s grace is the only way to move from missing-the-mark to standing in the middle of God’s will. His grace is our only hope.
So today I’d like to challenge you to think a little bit about what it means to sin – to miss the mark…and what it means to stand in the midst of God’s grace.
Have you ever convinced yourself that you were only sinning “a little bit”? If so, did that change your view of God and His grace? How does having a clear understanding of sin and grace shape your everyday life?
You can find Heather online at the links below in her bio, and you can find out what else she’s written here.