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What Is this sin thing? Part 1

Copyright © 2007 Dorian S. Cole


Some think that maybe we need a new definition of sin. The word doesn't fit well into modern culture, and the notions about what sin is, don't fit either. Preaching sin, guilt, and punishment have commonly served to drive people away from the church, and to focus on the wrong things.

The related idea of being tolerant of each other doesn't fit well either. Divorce affects nearly half of marriages, and single heads of household are now over 50%, since we apparently prefer not to live together and tolerate each other. LGBTQ issues remain unresolved or rejected by many churches and religious people who are adamant that it can't be tolerated. The younger generation simply leaves the church and refuses to participate because it no longer seems relevant. Outsiders keep it at arms length. The church is slowly decaying, with attendance dropping steadily since 1900, with many people having no idea what the mission of the church is.

In this study on sin and iniquity, I look at the idea of sin, origins, and how it applies today.

What is so bad about sin? Consider divorce.

Maybe nothing is bad. Maybe everything.

Terry found Keith's wife, Sue, very attractive. During one of Keith's extended business trips overseas, he asked his good friend Terry to look after his wife and family. During Terry's assistance, Sue received some bad news about a favorite uncle - he was going to die from cancer. Sue was inconsolable until Terry arrived and comforted her. They grew close. Soon they slept together (had sex).

From that moment on, Sue not only had feelings for Terry, she could no longer be intimate with Keith. After 3 months of ineffective counseling, she finally confessed to the affair. Keith could not overlook his wife's indiscretion. His relationship with Terry was also over. After two years of struggle, Keith and Sue broke up. And Terry's marriage also failed and he divorced his wife, Sandy. In another two years, Keith and Sue got back together and their marriage became stronger than ever. But Terry's marriage was permantly torn. Terry's wife deeply felt rejected, couldn't overcome it, then turned to drugs. Two years later, her life completely wrecked, she overdosed and died.

Was Keith and Sue's stronger marriage worth the destruction of Sandy? Or is this a tragedy that could have been avoided?

Carved in stone is the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." As far back at least as 1200 BC, up through at least the time of Jesus, and into the 20th. Century, adultery led to the breakup of marriage. What this meant for the woman in that era until the 20th. Century was that she had no means of financial support. She was likely to become a harlot to support herself.

While people may have found it difficult to live together and work out their problems, the alternative was even worse. It was better for a man or woman to endure their mate's complaints and faults than to divorce. Maybe the immediate practical effect of divorce today is different - women can support themselves. Only in the 21st. Century have we been able to question the wisdom of living in a toxic marriage with its horrible effect on partners and children.

While the Jews had strict controls over divorce, the Samaritans employed it without restriction. Jesus spoke harshly about divorce and said God allowed it because of the hardness of people's hearts. He ignored the Samaritan's stand, even though like Jesus they were followers of Torah (Jewish Law).

Jesus said that those who divorced should not remarry. Harsh, especially in today's world where divorce affects nearly half of those who marry, and not remarrying deprives them of emotional support and may deny their child a mother or father and adequate financial support. Perhaps he knew that those who couldn't resolve difficulties shouldn't try again with another partner. The failure rate for second marriages is 60% compared with 50% for first marriages.

Is divorce a good idea?

According to the American Psychological Association, "Healthy marriages are good for couples' mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems." Divorce can be the pathway to those good outcomes. On the other hand, in general, those who work through marital problems end up with a stronger marriage. And then there are those who continue to make each other miserable and create a horrible environment for their children.

Today divorce is easy. It can be the escape hatch for those who find they aren't very compatible or just fall out of love. Why live in misery... or with someone you don't love? Why even try to get along if you can just call it quits and move on - go live your life unfettered and unchallenged? Why stretch yourself? Why put up with anything?

Are we still wed to a 1100 BC commandment? Are adultery and divorce sins that still carry the same weight? Can we just ignore them? Is it wrong to remarry? Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul, everything is legal, but not everything is profitable. Love is the fulfillment of the law. (End paraphrase.) What we decide to do takes discernment and a lot of wrestling with the consequences we are about to bring on ourselves and others. Do we drag the escape clause into our marriages so we can just bail when things turn sour? Or should we not consider divorce unless all else has failed, and create stronger marriages?

Can we be led by wisdom?

Wisdom can be lost in the clutter of history and rigid laws, yet wisdom can be revealed through experience. Jesus knew what he was talking about. Divorce shouldn't be the first thing that comes to mind when the going gets tough, and things usually get tough in marriage and family life. Having children is know to either make or break a marriage, and so is loss of freedom.

Are we using wisdom with our children and protecting them from divorce?

One of the things we're seeing today is that young adults aren't allowed to fight their own battles so they don't learn how to resolve differences of opinion. Their parents fight their battles, thinking they are doing them a favor. Not so.

Another thing we're seeing is new adults (age 18 to 30) not moving out on their own or getting married until around age 27, or increasingly not at all. In Jesus' time young adults and children learned their parent's trade and worked and married in their early teens. Today new adults are developing lifestyles that revolve around being dependent on others and whatever they want, and not including others. Those lifestyles become habits that are hard to break so it's easier to break the marriage.

We live in a very different era with very different situations and problems. We need to understand and consider the wisdom of people like Jesus, and the wisdom that comes today from experience and social psychologists who work with human relationships.

Just as with divorce, we need to seek wisdom to consider all of the guidelines we live by. The Apostle Paul said, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." - 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NASB). We need wisdom to know the difference.

The never ending legalities

According to Paul, we are all worthy of death. That's also a bit harsh, but it was his point to anyone who thinks he can get around God by simply thinking they are good enough and don't have to try any harder. For example, say the magic words and you're in forever, regardless. Not that God is sending us to Hell, but certainly mistreatment of others can affect the opportunities and successes in our lives - the quality of our life. We can seek the high road and overcome difficulties that the difficulties that life presents, or live as bottom feeders content with sucking in crap and mud. It's up to us.

God created us and he knows we're all human and subject to failures of all kinds. He made us inquisitive and we break rules to find answers. Adam and Eve were excellent examples: "Don't eat that apple from the tree of knowledge!" Oops - I lusted after knowledge of good and evil. "Now you're going to get that knowledge, and it's going to be painful." God knew we would - it's our nature. We're not robots, we have human tendencies - we're created that way. But in our journey to knowledge, we are molded, stretched, and refined by fire.

Everything can be forgiven

We need to remember that all can be forgiven because we are going to stumble and fall. But are some commandments to be taken more seriously than others? Sin isn't anything new. The world of Noah was rife with sinful acts. Every person did as he pleased and that brought their destruction, and also that of Sodom and Gomorrah who were notorious for mistreating others without conscience. Living an uncaring and mistreating lifestyle can bring our destruction.

Israel contracted for sin

To have God on their side, they agreed to certain things. Not everything has always been a sin. Jewish Rabbis (teachers of Jewish Law) believe that from their investigation in the Bible, the Talmud, only seven laws were given to Noah. These were considered universal or natural laws that would still apply today. Seven Laws of Noah.

  1. Not to worship idols
  2. Not to curse God (show great disrespect)
  3. Not to commit murder
  4. Not to commit adultery or sexual immorality
  5. Not to steal
  6. Not to eat flesh torn from a living animal
  7. To establish courts of justice.(concerning adjudication (dinim) - that is judges and courts)

We may blow off number 2, but we do tend to stay true to the rest. On 2, Noah, Moses, and Jonah tried to sidestep rule number 2 and lived to tell about it. Moses even committed murder. Well, we think maybe Noah didn't want to build and ark in the middle of nowhere and look like an idiot, but asked himself, "How long can I tread water?"

Moses didn't want to confront Pharaoh, claiming he wasn't an eloquent speaker. But God said he would run his mouth for him. Moses acquiesced. Jonah was sent to do a task he considered defaming. Instead he escaped on a ship, drawing a storm that put everyone in peril, bringing their wrath on him. Overboasrd he went, then he finally did as God asked. You can disrespect God, but it isn't wise, especially if you turn from him forever - denying God might not be forgivable because you never ask for forgiveness or go to God.

Are these "Natural Laws" put in our heart?

Through Moses, God further developed the number of Jewish Laws. He carved ten into stone, tailored to Israel.

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me
  2. You shall not make idols
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain [disrespect]
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (day of rest)
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet

We're all probably guilty

Many today feel that they have broken many or most of the Ten Commandments. But murder? Meh. We're very selective. And some of these we throw at others while ignoring the ones we break. Currently LGBTQ tops the list of preferred "sins" to turn weaponize, and maybe it isn't even a sin after all. Further in this series, we'll thoroughly explore that question.

Ten laws weren't good enough to address all of human behavior. The Laws continued to multiply until by Jesus's time, Judaism had identified 613 Laws in the first five books of the Bible. These laws included 365 things that you should not do, and 248 that you should do. Some of these prohibitions are self-evident, such as stealing. Some commemorate Jewish historical events. Some have no rational explanation. Some apply to only men or women. Reference: 613 Commandments in Judaism.

In reality, people will always find a way around a law. Where there's a will, there's a way. So there can never be enough laws... or probably enough lawyers. But Jesus came and fulfilled the Law: Love. Love is the measure of all measures. Paul said in Romans 13: 8-10, (NIV) "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

This was a huge statement by Paul that ranks up there with other major statements about God and the Bible: "For whoever loves others has fulfilled the law." Or as I like to put it, "Can you act out of love for others and still break a relevant law?" I think not.

In my book, "Ontology Of God: The voices of the ancients speak," Among other things, I outline the development of law in the Bible and other cultures. See the Authors Books section on this page.

The new covenant - law written in hearts

Which law is written in our hearts? The law of Noah? The Law of Moses? The Ten Commandments? The law of love?

The Prophets Jeremiah and Joel saw a new day coming in which The Law would be written in the hearts of men. It was to be a new covenant brought by Christ. Jeremiah 31 (NIV): "...“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” This is confirmed in Hebrews 8:8

Joel referred to the days ahead in this way in Joel 2:28, 29 (NASB): "Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God, And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame. "It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. "Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.…"

John said about Joel's comment in John 7:39 (BSB), "He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified."

Jesus said, in Luke 17: 20, 21 (NIV), "Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Or the kingdom of God is within you.

The Law is written in our hearts, and the Kingdom of God is now. We enter the kingdom now through following Christ, and by accepting God's forgiveness. We have this innate sense of our actions being good or bad for ourselves or others. We don't need a list of laws or rules to tell us. All we need is love.

Also see Romans 2:14-15, Romans 2:27.


Jesus brought to us a new covenant (agreement between God and us). It is a covenant of love. Love fulfills the law. Love is the higher law. Love is what we judge ourselves and all laws by. Everything is permissible for us, but everything may not be wise. We have to use wisdom and love to judge whether we should do something or not.

The Law has been placed in the hearts of all mankind - not just Jews, not just Christians, but everyone 9Romans 2:14-15, Romans 2:27), because the spirit of God is in us. Love guides us. We don't have to open a book to see what the law says. We don't have to instruct others on the Law, they already know. But we have to consider through the lens of love the effect that our actions have on others. To not do so leaves us guilty for our actions.

The Law, a written set of rules, even 613 of them, is not a substitute for love. Jesus ignored rules about the Sabbath to heal others and to pick grain to eat, saying God made these rules for man, not God. God doesn't need rules. He needs for people to love each other.

Part 2: What Is A Sin?

Series on sin index

Yours in Christ,

- Dorian

Author's Series on this Website

What is this thing called sin? Is it the same today as in 1200 BCE? Are all sins equal? Sexual morality. Sin and the future of the church.

What is the Bible about? Politics? Economics? What? What? What?

Transitioning: Five-part series explores coping with and embracing change. Includes why changes are normal but difficult, the courage to change, staying oriented, rediscovering ourselves, and rearchitecting our lives.

Freedom in Christ: Trapped by apocalypse and Rapture?

Spiritual Growth series: This series is well researched and looks at many aspects of spiritual growth from the point of view of faith. Topics include: Are spiritual and religious different? What is a spiritual journey? Are there signs of maturity and stages of growth? Spiritual development in Ancient Judaism. Spiritual development among the disciples. Discerning the path. My personal spiritual journey. Moral, Ethical, Legal - If it's legal, is it right?

Prophecy series: Seven secrets others don't tell you. This series is well researched and looks at many aspects of prophecy from the point of view of faith. Prophecy is explored in its cultural, historical, and eschatological context. Topics include: What does prophecy mean? What is the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord about? What does apocalyptic "trembling in our boots" prophecy mean? What does modern prophecy mean? What are our defining issues today, and can our values save us?

Author's series on Patheos.com:
New Generations Explore Faith

Series are excellent for group discussion.

The Bible and Religion in Context series Five-parts. Religion can become about being an institution or about what we want as individuals. For those who have their own agenda when reading the Bible, perception is the path to insanity and ruin. Before drilling down into the nitty gritty details of religion and doctrine, we need a good grounding in the nature of God. We can start with, “God is love.” We have to prove the truth of the way God has shown us is right and other ways are wrong. We learn from both. The really important thing to believe is that love is the right way. God breathes life into the words as we read.

What Does God Ask Of Us? Six-part series explores if God needs anything from us. The prophets tell us what God wants us to do. Jesus demonstrates God’s love that we’re to show others. The Apostles tell us explicitly what love is and isn’t. God loves us more than we can imagine.

Meaning and Purpose series – What is meaning? Six-part series explores what we find meaningful in our lives, how to guard against illusions and false gods, how to feel deserving, how to find purpose, and how to reinvent ourselves after change.

Working with new generations (Gen Z). Fourteen-part series explores 2000 years of endless change, church eras, the need for change, seven parts on LGBTQIA+, era of conscience and reassessment.

False Religion, True Religion. Eleven-part series on worshiping in spirit and in truth, and things that divert us from our path such as a focus on money and power, End Times prophecy, and how two churches spoken about in Revelation got distracted.

Don’t worry, be happy. Nine-part series explores things that make us unhappy, such as change, things that make us happy, and how to stay on top.

Why Pray? Series. Eleven-part series explores: What is prayer and who can use it?” (everyone). Unrealistic expectations. And criticism – can it be subjected to scientific studies and philosophical inquiries?

New Generations Walk with Jesus: The missions in a changing world. How do you minister to new generations who won’t step foot in a church because they can’t satisfy their spiritual needs there? You understand their needs and respond to those. This book by the author is available on Amazon in both print and ebook.


Author's Books - Nonfiction

New Generations Walk With Jesus

New Generations Walk With Jesus How to minister to new generations age 15 to 30 (ebook, Kindle, Paperback)

The Prophetic Pattern

The Prophetic Pattern. Guide to ancient prophecy - are we all going to die any day now?

Careers: future of work

Careers. Preparing For The Future Of Work And Education. (One year of research and writing.) Free.

Christian plays

Christian plays. and Childrens sermons.

How To Write A Screenplay

How To Write A Screenplay Free.
Basic Guide

Ontology of God

Appease The Volcano. Nature of God - What Does God ask of us. The development of religion.


Death By Christmas

Death By Christmas
Comedy. An unscrupulous lawyer blunders into Christmas with the wrong attitude.

Liars Truth

Liars Truth Fantasy. Second chance in Hell means rescuing others.

Nowhere Man

Nowhere Man Thriller. Pandemic. Waking nightmares, distorted time perception, comas with no cure.

Unauthorized Access

Unauthorized Access (series of 3) Legal mystery. People with endless problems hide the truth to protect others.

Total Immersion

Total Immersion New Adult. Romantic Comedy. Mature themes. Romance strikeout compels a man to fully immerse himself in a 3D environment.


Service and Aid Opportunities

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:35 (NASB)

Copyright © 2008 Dorian Scott Cole. Produced by TechGenie Media, LLC

Distribution notice

Material on this Web site is meant to be used in sermons, teaching, etc. You are welcome to make standard size quotations from this article with proper attribution (Dorian Scott Cole, One Spirit Resources Web site). This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole.

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