When I say the word “sin,” what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of a friend who is currently going through a divorce because of the sin of infidelity. Or maybe you think of your child, who gives in to the sin of selfishness, manifested through temper tantrums. Or perhaps the “seven deadly sins” come to mind. Sin, in its most basic, raw, ugly form is the breaking up of community; it shatters what God is made (both in us and through us) and separates us from Him. Christian Schwarz writes in The 3 Colors of Community, “God has created us to live in relationship, but sin isolates us. Sin, at its most fundamental level, is a breach of community–a breach in our relationship with God, to others, and to ourselves” (p. 15).
At this juncture, we should also clarify that sin is not just “breaking rules.” This view may be too shallow. Even before God gave Moses the 10 Commandments (His first official list of rules), sin entered the world when the relationship/community between God and Adam and Eve was broken by distrust followed by disobedience. Thus, might we suggest that “rules only exist to protect things that are more important than rules. Our challenge is to identify that which the rules are meant to protect. Only from that perspective will we be able to appreciate the wisdom of rules” (The 3 Colors of Community, p. 17).
Interestingly, in 1 John (a letter which is primarily about love, relationships, and community), the author makes an interesting statement: “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Did you catch that? He says that sin is also a transgression of the law, as if sin starts on a deeper level resulting in the transgression of commandments.
Because of this, we cannot live in holistic community with others if we neglect to address sin. Additionally, it’s impossible to overcome sin if we try to deal with it on our own, outside the context of Christian community. Sin threatens to break not only us–ourselves–apart, but also shatter community.
In Luke 10:27, Jesus instructs us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” We see three objects of love in this verse: God (above all), our neighbor, and ourselves; this is the essence of our faith. Yet sin can destroy all three relationships.
- Sin destroys our relationship with God through our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. It damages our friendship with God and drives us away from Him.
- Sin destroys our relationship with others. Christianity cannot occur in a vacuum; we need others in order to fully encounter God. By serving others, you actually serve God. You also receive God’s love through the love of others. It is impossible to love God without loving others, yet sin attempts to obliterate our relationships.
- Sin destroys our relationships with ourselves. Your ability serve others is dependent on having a healthy relationship with yourself. The negative effects of sin–even “secret” sin–can be seen in every relationship. “Sin distorts your relationship with yourself” (The 3 Colors of Community, 16).
As Christians, we must be aware of sin and must seek to properly identify it. How can we do that? And what kind of sin should be looking for? Come back next week to read more.