What is Sin?

This is the first entry in the “Year 1, Quarter 4 material”. We will be discussing the concept of sin. Over the next three months we will focus on providing in-depth discussion material for you and your kids on the following topics from our recite material:

  • What is sin?

  • Overview Books of History

  • Conquering of Canaan

  • Ancient Geography

  • Story of the Bible

  • The Marginalized

  • Major Character: Joshua

  • Memory Verse: Joshua 1:7-9

These posts are created to slowly work through with your kids. They are focussed on more challenging topics that will engage young people who are beginning to adopt God’s story as their own.

First we need to start with definitions:

What is sin?

We decided to use the definition of

Choosing what God does not want for us.

We have depicted sin using a familiar image to many of a human in the garden of Eden, eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.


Choosing what God said would kill them.

This narrative account of the man and his wife give us a picture of the nature of sin. Though this account does not identify their actions as sinful, the rest of the Biblical story will show humans repeating these kinds of mistakes, which Biblical authors call ‘sin.’ The ideas present in this rebellion will echo throughout the rest of the Bible and even into our everyday choices. Understanding this story will help us understand why we are so bad at making good choices.

What is good?

The first thing to notice in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 is who is defining what is ‘good’. It is God! Six times, God pronounces his creation as ‘Good’, and then after creating man and woman, God says that it is all very good. God has created the perfect place to live in harmony with his creation, and the perfect creation which he gives his own image to.

God tells the man that there is one rule in this paradise:

“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Gen 2:16-17 ESV

Shortly after this, we see that God creates a woman from the side of his man. This creature also bears God’s image. Without the woman, the situation was, “not good”. The man immediately falls head over heels for the woman.

The plot thickens in chapter 3, when we find out that there is a crafty, talking snake present. Many have identified him as “the satan” or the great deceiver, though at this point the story gives us few details. All we know is that he is challenging what God has told them to this point:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 ESV

These first few chapters are packed full of details and concepts that would take many blog posts to unravel. Let’s focus on the promises of the snake, which are common in our own sin. First, he says that when they eat the fruit, they will not die. Strangely, in the story, we find out that this is accurate. After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve do not die, but continue to live. In another sense, they now live a life filled with fear, scarcity, and death. They no longer have access to God’s garden and the tree of life, so death is certainly now a consequence.

Choosing what God does not want

The snake also promises that by eating of this tree that the people will be like God. The sad irony is that they are already like God. They are his image-bearers. Humans were created to be co-rulers with God over his good creation. All he asks is that they trust him to define what is good and what is bad.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit f and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened i and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Gen 3:6-7 ESV

First, notice who determining what is ‘good’ now? It is no longer God. The woman (and then the man) redefine good for themselves. The author has helped us with this conclusion by naming the tree 'the tree of knowledge of good and evil'.’ Humans usurp God’s authority to define good and evil when they do not trust God’s word about what is good and choose for themselves.

Lastly, the nakedness idea has to do with trust. When we trust and follow after God, we can have harmonious relationships. Our relationship can thrive when we both believe and accept what God has told us is good. When we throw out God’s definition and replace it with a personal conception of good and bad, I can no longer trust you. You may define good and evil differently from me, so now I am ashamed and have to hide myself from you. In the same way, we are both aware that neither of our definitions measures up to God, so ultimately we both have something to hide from one another.

COMPELLING QUESTIONS

  1. What does it mean to sin?

  2. What can the first sin teach us about the patterns of sin?

  3. How does Jesus rescue us from this pattern?

INTRIGUING METAPHOR

When I was 5, my mom told me never to touch the stove. I would regularly test her on this and touch the stove. One day I touched the stove when it had been turned on. I burned my hand badly.

  • How is this situation similar to the one in the garden?

  • How are the things your parents tell you like God was saying in the garden?

Why do we sin?

This question is on our society’s mind. So many people want to know why a good God would even allow sin into his world. We see the snake and wonder why God would create such a treacherous being. We see Eve take the fruit, and Adam do the same, we watch our friends betray us, and we participate in our own little rebellions against God, and wonder why God allows any of it to take place.

Interestingly enough, this question was on the minds of those who wrote the Bible as well. It all comes down to choice. God wants to have a relationship with his creatures (created ones). God does not need a relationship, but rather he desires one. God takes the first chapter of Genesis to create a place that is habitable and good for his creation, and then makes a special garden, a temple for him to join humans in relationship and work. But to have a relationship, there must be some other status. To be in relationship means that there must be a state of being ‘out of relationship.’

Genesis chapter 3 explains how humans acted in rebellion to how they were created. They redefined good and evil and did not trust God’s goodness. So we say that:

Sin comes from our hearts which are broken and need to be fixed.

Sin is not inherited from our fathers or mothers. Sin has not been foisted upon us from others, but rather sin is a product of our own defective desires and minds. Each and every person acts out the story of Adam and Eve in their own lives. We know the things we should do and even some of the things that God has said are ‘good’. But we fail to do them. And we know the things that God has told us will kill us and others. We embrace those things and choose them. There are many reasons why we choose the bad; maybe we think (like Adam and Eve) that God is holding out on us, perhaps we think that we don’t deserve the good that God has, or maybe we are so prideful that we think we know better than our creator.

Whatever the reason, we know and see that the problem comes from within our own hearts.

COMPELLING QUESTIONS

  1. What areas of your life do you find difficult to trust that God in?

  2. How does death come when we choose what God does not want for us?

  3. Would a loving God allow sin into his world?

INTRIGUING METAPHOR

Machines obey us. When our phone or device does not do what we want, we can become very upset. How are the machines we create like humans?

  • Some people think that humans will create machines that are ‘sentient’. One of the thoughts behind this idea is that truly ‘artificial intelligence’ can choose whether to obey.

  • Is this related to the sin problem that we see in scripture? How?

What are the consequences of sin?

God is not allergic to sin. Sometimes we say things like, “God can’t be in the presence of sin.” As though he is scared of it or it might harm him or sully his reputation. What (hopefully) we really mean is that God’s goodness is so good, that anything less than absolutely good is destroyed.

This video describes God’s goodness in terms of the sun. If you approach it without proper precautions, then you will be incinerated. And even if you take precautions, you’re likely to be destroyed anyway.

This story is sad and powerful. The story of the fall is our story. We know that we constantly reach out for the forbidden fruit even though it leads to death. God lays out the good fruit before us, the tree of life, and wants us to eat of it and enjoy eternity in relationship with him, but we choose instead a life of misery and destruction.

Sin separates us from God and leads to death

Defining right and wrong for ourselves leads to a life filled with heartache. When our own carefully constructed definitions of right and wrong collide with that of our fellow humans’, we recoil in fear and shame, or lash out in anger and disgust.

God was entirely truthful when he said that Adam and Eve died in the day they ate of the fruit. Life separated from God is a terrible kind of death! Now that we have come into the body of Christ, we are able to enter back into God’s space through Christ’s sacrifice and live in relationship with our God. Praise God!

COMPELLING QUESTIONS

  1. What did God mean that Adam and Eve would die in the day they ate of the fruit?

  2. How can making our own definitions for right and wrong be deadly?

  3. What is the solution to this living-death that we bring on ourselves?

INTRIGUING METAPHOR

Baptism is a powerful image of a person fully embodying these ideas about sin and death. How does baptism shape our story? Why is this ceremony so important to Jesus and his followers?

  • Are there other metaphors for death in scripture or in worship? How should we understand them?

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