The Essence of Sin

All glory MUST be given to The LORD for the inspiration for this through His Holy Spirit

Of the many changes in my life this year, that have served to improve and offer a sense of perspective, is the position I have been entrusted and privileged with in coordinating the youth (teenage) classes in church.

It has been such a blessing to be able to share and discuss with people who are filled with so many questions and different perspectives on what life should look like, etc. As you may know by now, I’m a knowledge junkie (I was tempted to put “infophile” but I understand that this has started off talking about children and only bad things can happen if I use “phile” in this context, besides, I’ve recently read @ThisisLoveSam‘s piece “The Difference Between Us And Them”)

As of late, we have been discussing and addressing the way we all think about things and approach life by trying to change our mental processes through a grounding of our thinking in The Word of God. One key issue that keeps appearing is… Sin.

As you may expect, the questions that arise are plenty: What is sin? Why do we sin? What can we do to stop sinning? How do we even know we are sinning? and many more. In addressing this issue, we looked at a key verse, one I personally believe helps to frame the sin question: James 4:17

Therefore to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin. (MKJV)

This verse, in my opinion, immediately highlights personal choice and addresses the issue of what YOU know and what YOU think rather than the general consensus. That’s not to say that the general consensus is wrong (far from it but it is not always suitable in all situations) but this puts the burden on one’s personal actions and creates an introspective accountability of sorts.

When you think about it, the essence of sin is very subtle and, to an extent, deeply personal. To put it in perspective, allow me to provide you an example:

I commute into central London, where I work, via the SouthEastern Railway Metro service. I happen to start my journey in Zone 6 (central London being Zone 1). My gym, on the way home, is in Zone 4. The difference in ticket prices for Z1-Z4 and Z1-Z6 is approximately £40 (the distance is usually 2/3 stops on the train and about 3-5 miles).

Now, I’ve obviously worked this out and I know this. I know this very well. I also happen to be knowledgeable enough to know that I can catch a train to Zone 6, with a Zone 4 ticket and, IF necessary, pay the difference in Zones (about £2.60). Should an inspector get on (or be waiting at my destination), I can easily provide a robust, even truthful, answer as to why I am travelling past my ticket coverage and still get away with paying the difference.

When I thought about it this seemingly inconsequential behavioural pattern and decision-making process in the light of James 4:17 – I think the ESV version frames it much better:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (Highlight for emphasis alone)

Now this is the part that caught me out:
I KNOW the RIGHT thing to do, I KNOW that despite the minimal risk of being caught, the right thing to do is to faithfully abide by the law and pay that extra £40 that would be better put to other things. Despite being able to talk my way out of any fines, the right thing to do was to pay. Not to cover myself for the sake of “in case” but rather because paying the full fare is the RIGHT thing to do, within MY spirit. To summarise, to do anything less, in my case, is to sin!

The more I thought about this, the more I discovered various “oversights” I had made and many things I had become desensitised to. I had to go about thinking about things I say (lies I tell), actions I take (or do not) and work out if, at one point, I used to feel uneasy about them and why I do not any longer.

In some cases, I became so twisted in my thinking that the minute things that I considered “inconsequential” had become the norm. I love to debate and throw about ideas, especially on social media networks (who am I kidding, it’s pretty much exclusive to Twitter) but my nature has always led me to encounter many different opinions on many different issues. So when this question of sin came up with the young persons I have the privilege to interact with, I couldn’t just make a sweeping statement from an assumed position of authority and I definitely could not fail to tackle the issue. Fortunately, we had already begun to look at this verse and I found it to be of extremely good value and practical use both in my personal experience and also as a foundation for personal accountability.

I am not saying that this is the extent of sin – it is a far more complicated subject than I could hope to explain in a few paragraphs but I find that many people are confused about what sin is and how to tackle the subject since it has become so subjective in this modern age. With that in mind, I propose a starting point and also a challenge… to you.

What are the things YOU know are RIGHT to do? Of those things, how many do you choose NOT to do?

In short, in what things can you find the essence of the sins you commit?

If you would like to read more into this, helpful additional reading can be found in Romans 14:23 (I would recommend you read the whole chapter to put it into the right context). Thanks to @KarlNova for shedding further light on personal accountability through actions. (You can find his blog here)

God bless you.