I was raised in a mainline denominational church. There are many things I love about the churches I attended growing up (we moved every few years so I went to several that I remember), but there are few things that I did not learn about in that denomination: the Gospel, making a personal commitment to Christ, putting off the old self and putting on the new, and sin.
I remember in late high school or college I struggled at times to even see sin in my life because I wasn’t doing things like drinking, drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, sexual misconduct, or even dishonoring my parents. I was a “good girl”, in fact I was often ridiculed because of that. Occasionally something would come up that I would struggle with, but usually I dealt with it quickly and moved on.
Over the last couple of years I have learned a lot about sin and where it exists in my life. It isn’t in my actions, but in my underlying beliefs which then affects my actions, especially in relationships. Again, it isn’t that I am blatantly doing those top recognized sins or living in ways that oppose my Christian beliefs, but instead I doubt, fear, struggle with my beliefs, and believe things that give me a wrong starting point so every step I take from there is incorrect. It is like the bird who accidentally flies into a room through an open window and keeps banging on the closed window on the other side because it can see out, but the bird has the wrong belief that this closed window will let it free, it only needs to turn around to see the truly open window behind it.
Sin is anything that separates, divides, or leads us from God. It truly starts with our deep, underlying beliefs. It starts with our heart. I recently heard someone say that all sin starts with the first and second commandments: you shall have no other gods before me, you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything. If we have made something else an idol or a god in our life, even if that is a belief we hold in our heart then we are walking in sin. If we think lowly of ourselves, lowly of God, or do not trust his Word then we are living in sin. If we know a truth in the Bible and are not living by it then we are living in sin.
Honestly, life was easier when I couldn’t recognize sin in my life. I could move forward and not think much about what I am doing and what the condition of my heart was. Now, I am daily seeing how far I have to go and how wrong I am. It is humbling. I am not depressed or upset about it because I know it is bringing me closer to the Lord, but it is hard. I wish repenting of the sin was as easy as just saying I wanted it to end and that I choose to turn from it. Unfortunately many of the beliefs and actions are so engrained that it takes a very long time and a lot of work to change. I can get upset at myself because I know my heart wants to change, but my flesh is so weak. My heart is heavy at times because I have such sorrow over the sin I see in my life and how much I want it to be completely and permanently gone. I take heart in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 because it gives me hope that my sorrow and struggle have an outcome ahead that I can not see yet.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”
What is sin? Sin is what I do, think, and believe that doesn’t represent Christ, show him and his truth to the world, and bring redemption, hope, and promise. Sin is how I have lived and what I want to move away from. Sin is what separates me not only from God, but from you, from others, and even from myself. Today I am overwhelmed by seeing and knowing about the sin in my life and I pray that my heart does change, that my life is repentant, and that my life is transformed by the power of the Gospel of Christ.