What images pop into your mind when you hear that word?
What feelings emerge?
If you are like most, you cringe at the word and feel some guilt. It’s one of those “holy” words that strikes fear into you.
Sin is a word that has been greatly misinterpreted and misunderstood.
According to Christian teachings, we have been born into “original sin.”
Some people would say, Well, what the heck does that mean?
It’s a phrase used to describe the collective state of humanity. In other words, the condition of humanity is not perfect. It has some flaws.
Let’s examine this.
The word for “sin” in the ancient Greek (in which the New Testament was written) is “hamartia” (ἁμαρτία), which transliterated means “miss the mark.”
Think of an archer aiming for the bullseye. Ready. Aim. Miss! What does the archer do? He grabs another bow, takes aim, and fires again. He keeps firing until he hits the mark. He perfects his technique until he is able to hit it accurately. Will there be times he misses? Sure. But as long as he keeps his eye on the mark, he’ll hit it more often than not.
Over the centuries, the word sin has collected a lot of cultural and religious baggage. It was held over the heads of people to scare them into what churches (some, not all) and society considered “proper” behavior. It has been misused, abused, and taken out of context.
During the Dark Ages and Medieval times, most people were illiterate and uneducated; only priests and very wealthy people were educated, and because of this privilege, they were able to control (and manipulate) the masses for their purposes. And more often than not, they missed the mark by abusing their power by using statements like, If you don’t do this or that in the name of God, you’re a sinner! You’ll be damned and go straight to hell! You’re made to feel guilty by others.
It’s no wonder people began to fear the word (and God for that matter).
So, when we strip away all of the baggage and misinterpretations, we have a word with a simple definition that points toward an inherent condition. Because we are human, we are born with some abnormalities, some dysfunction if you will, thus the term “original sin.” We are born into ignorance. And if we are not careful, others will capitalize on that ignorance to bring out the worst in us or to keep us under their thumbs…sneaky sneaky.
When we sin, we miss the mark. Missing the mark means to continue in ignorance. It means to suffer and to cause suffering because of continued ignorance. It means missing the point of human existence.
But that doesn’t mean we have to remain in ignorance. We have the ability (and free will) to make choices to better ourselves so that we can live our lives more authentically. The biggest sin, therefore, is remaining ignorant and blind to your authentic self by letting your flaws (and others) hold you down.
We can take a lesson from the archer when it comes to sin. He doesn’t feel guilty for not hitting his target; he doesn’t beat himself up; instead, he tries again. And again. Until he gets it right. It takes practice, patience, and perseverance.
With practice, his aim gets better. With patience, he learns from his mistakes and makes corrections. With perseverance, he progresses toward his goal until he reaches it. He doesn’t give up. He knows he has flaws, but he doesn’t let those flaws define him, nor does he allow them to deny him what is his. He lives the life of an archer, true to himself because that is who he is designed to be.
Who are you designed to be? And what will it take for you to make your mark?