What is Sin?

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on sin. You can also read Part 2 and Part 3. The prompt given was “explain sin to a 12-year-old”. Submitted May 2016.

What is sin? Maybe you’ve heard the word before. Maybe you’ve heard it at church – we tend to say “sin” a lot at church, but we don’t often say what it means. The truth is, “sin” is a bit of a tricky concept.

What do you think sin is? A lot of people think sin is doing bad things. For the most part, when you do something bad, like stealing, or hurting someone, then that is a sin.

But sin isn’t just something you do. You can also sin in what you think. Do you think it would be a sin to hate someone? Just hate them. You haven’t done anything to them, and you probably won’t do anything to them, but you just really, really hate them. You won’t talk to this person, but you glare at her behind her back. Have you sinned then?

Jesus says you have. In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, in Chapter 5, Jesus tells us that if we’re angry with someone, especially if we don’t really have a good reason to be, then it’s just like if we murdered them! What do you think of that? Have you ever been angry with someone? I know I have. Sometimes we don’t think it’s really sinning to be mad at someone, we don’t really think it’s a bad thing, but according to Jesus, it’s just like if we’d killed them, and we all know that’s a bad thing.

But what about being disobedient to our parents? I’m sure we’ve all done that. We know that our mother or our father wants us to do one thing, but because we don’t want to do it, we do something else.

That’s a bit like what sin is like. God is our father, our parent. He knows what’s best for us, but usually we decide to do something else anyway. We rebel against him. Sometimes we mean to do it, but sometimes we don’t really, but usually we end up doing something God doesn’t want us to do, because of that little voice in the back of our minds saying, “But I don’t want to!”

You’re not the first person to feel like this. In fact, the first person was Eve, way back in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had the best relationship with God ever. Have you ever had a time when you get on really well with your parents? Maybe you’ve spent an afternoon with them, and just had the best time ever. No-one got into an argument. Okay, maybe not. But that’s what it was like for Adam and Eve in the Garden, talking to God every day.

Then Satan said to Eve, “Do you really think God wants the best for you? Don’t you think you know better what’s best for you?” And that’s when it started. That’s when we started rebelling against God, and doing what we thought was right, not what He knew was best for us.

So what is sin? Is it when we do something bad? Is it when we hurt someone? Is it when we’re just angry at someone?

Sin is when we know what God says we should do, but we decide to do something else instead. It’s when we ignore what God tells us, because we think it’ll be more fun to do something else. It’s when we’re too busy thinking what we want, and doing what we want, that we don’t really pay attention to what God’s telling us. It’s even when we do something God wants, but when we do it because we want to, and not because He wants us to.

Sin is when we think about ourselves and what we want, rather than about God.