Have you ever asked this question? If you have, you’ve probably gotten a lot of cryptic responses like “sin is ‘missing the mark’”, “sin is disobeying God”, “sin is all the bad things we do”, etc.
While these answers are not wrong, I never felt like they adequately explained it. So, I set out to find a solid answer for the question of what sin is. What’s the mark we’re missing? What’s God want us to do that we’re not? How do we know what bad things are?
I somewhat foolishly started in Romans, where Paul complicates the matter even more with phrases like “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." (Romans 7:7)
So, is sin breaking the Old Testament Law? Jewish leaders spend years going over the Law and still can’t completely agree on everything in it and how it applies today. And then there’s the whole “I do what I do not want to do, hoo do, di di do” tongue twister Paul lays out at the end of that chapter. Yikes!
Bedraggled by the torrent of rhetoric that is Romans, I walked away even more bogged down by the question of sin.
Finally acknowledging that I couldn’t grasp it on my own, I prayed for help. As I prayed, I looked up and saw the picture hanging above our front door. It’s just a piece of paper we printed on our home computer with a couple of verses on it:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)
On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40)
And it clicked. If the law points out what sin is, and all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments, then sin at its base is not following these two commandments.
Sin is not loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Sin is not loving your neighbor as yourself. So simple: no one answers questions quite like Jesus does.