What is Sin?

One of my favorite artists is the Belgian surrealist René Magritte. While many of his paintings are way too risque, his perspectives often challenge my thinking about reality. The painting below, Son of Man, is an interesting take on how sin and selfishness obscure our view of the real world God has for us. I notice not only the fruit and the obscured eyes of the man, but also his professional dress, his disfigured arm, and the ledge he might soon fall over. What do you notice?

After you consider this painting for a moment, please consider my thoughts on sin from Genesis 3 that follow.

René Magritte, Son of Man, 1964
René Magritte, Son of Man (1964)

Sin and Genesis 3

The first human beings, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s instructions about eating from a specific tree in the garden. By doing so, they committed the first “sin”.

So what is a good definition of sin, exactly?

To sin means to “go beyond a boundary or limit set by God,” or “to miss a mark set by God.” Simply stated, a sin is anything on our part which fails to conform to God’s clear expectations for us. God has these expectations not only because He is good, but also for our own good. God wants us to live in His best, and to experience a full life on earth.

Kierkegaard once described sin as making transient things, whether good or bad, into ultimate things. This idea led another existentialist, Martin Heidegger, to call sin “a state of inauthentic existence.” In other words, sin separates us not only from God but from the best possible version of ourselves. Sin alienates us from our truest destiny and the ability to achieve our full potential in pleasing God. I am no existentialist, but their words ring true nonetheless.

Consider for a moment, the conversation between God and the human beings in the garden after the first sin. Notice how the two of them are changed by their sin, and how they become the worst version of themselves.

Genesis 3:8-13: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Right after Adam and Eve sinned, God came looking for them. From the moment he “found” them, the first case of the typical human responses to sin was seen. Sin often results in:

  1. Shame – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” 
  2. Hiding – “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Adam said – “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 
  3. Blaming – Adam blames Eve, but also God – “The woman YOU put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” And Eve also casts blame – “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”
  4. Consequences – God says to the three of them – the serpent, the man, and the woman – “Because you have done this…”

Once the admission of their sin was out in the open, a series of curses followed. God pronounced a curse on the serpent who had tempted them, on Adam and Eve, and on all human beings who would follow in their lineage. These curses involve hostility, pain, and death. But there is also hope given within the curses themselves. Hope that points directly to Jesus.

Join us Sunday to hear more…

[If you missed last Sunday’s first message in the series (6/1/14), it may be downloaded here from our podcasts.]

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