Sin is not one of those topics I talk about often. In fact, you could probably count on one hand the number of posts I've made where sin is the primary topic. However, I have learned something recently - the hard way, as all good lessons on sin come - that I can't help but sharing.
I don't think we have a right view on sin. I don't think we understand the complex nature of it. For most of my life, and for nearly the entirety of my Christian life, I think I've always heard the distinction of sin as one of right and wrong. There are things we do that are right - pray, read the Bible, go to church - and there are things we do that are wrong - lie, cheat, steal. These wrong things we do are sin, and they are sin because they are, well, wrong.
It leaves us a little loophole, doesn't it? In this understanding, if we can look at our sin and construct a worldview in which what we've done is not 'wrong,' we can equally say it is not 'sin.' And if what we have done is not wrong and therefore not sin, we clearly cannot be sinners.
I'm okay; you're okay.
That's why, I think, the Bible never talks about sin as a distinction between right and wrong. God never wants to give us the opportunity to talk our way out of sin, as so many of us are so skilled at doing. The way we reason it, we talk our way into (or out of) sin. Because I have done wrong, I have sinned. But that's not it.
Sin is the primary thing, not the result.
It's not that because I have done wrong, I have sinned. It's that because I have sinned, I have done wrong. But that doesn't quite get at it. Right and wrong are such fickle ideas. They're not black and white; they're shades of grey. Is it right or wrong to steal? What about to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family? Aha...these are the questions we always come up against.
The Bible, though...the Bible doesn't conceptualize sin this way. In the Biblical view of sin, there is no right and wrong. It's all about clean...and unclean. It's about pure...and impure. When the Bible talks about a God who gets a glimpse of sin, it's not that He's grieved that His child didn't choose what is right (although He is), it's that He's disgusted.
Do not do these things, the Bible repeatedly says, lest you become disgusting. Sin makes us disgusting! Not because we have chosen the 'wrong' thing, but because we have become unclean by our doings.
This changes the entire concept we have of sin. You can't talk your way out of filth. The other day, I was just finishing up a run when my 4-year-old nephew arrived. He came right over to me, so, dripping with sweat, I gave him a big hug and told him how happy I was to see him. Then I offered him his favorite treat. He said, "Ok, but just not yet" then proceeded to walk over, pick a few tissues out of the box, and towel my sweat off of him. He just kept asking, "Why are you so slimy?"
That's what God is asking. He's not asking "Why did you do wrong?" There's not a way for us to rationalize our choices. We can't use shades of grey to cover it up. God's looking at us, in love, covered in our grossness, and asking, "Why are you so slimy?" He wouldn't, of course, refuse our hug, but you can't really blame Him for wanting to towel off afterward.
We're gross. And there's no conceptualization of sin that makes us less disgusting.
Because it's not about right and wrong. It's not about reasons. It's clean and unclean. It's pure and impure. It's an aroma pleasing to the Lord and the stench of decay. When we start to understand that, we start to understand sin.
And we don't want to do it any more. Not because it's so wrong but because it's so gross.
So very, very gross.