The other day I had a brief chat with my friend Steve about Barack Obama's answer to the question of "what is sin?" If you haven't read it or heard about it, you can read it here. In short, when asked in an interview "what is sin?" his answer was anything that is out of alignment with his values.
For various reasons since then, this question has been nudging my thoughts, and just today I have participated a bit in the combox there. I would strongly encourage you to read the interview Steve links to, to gain a fuller context of Barack Obama's version of Christianity, and why he answers the way he does. It will serve to reveal a clearer picture on what this man truly believes, and why.
So then... What IS Sin?
Several years ago in school, our Bible course was a workbook that adapted sixty catechism questions from the WCF, into a full, 5 day a week lesson plan. Obviously since we're Baptist folk, there were a few things we altered in the course but overall it was a most excellent workbook and I'd highly recommend it to anyone, and often do. As an adult Christian who certainly doesn't feel like a "babe in Christ" as far as maturity goes, even I greatly benefitted from this workbook. This is just one of the side-blessings of homeschooling in that even the teachers learn along with the students.
One of the things I enjoy about these textbooks/workbooks is reading the preface and acknowledgements. I know this may sound odd, but let me assure it really is a blessing to see how, where, and why the writers of these workbooks & textbooks are coming from. They know that the material is purchased by parents & teachers with a goal of investing timeless truths to young minds & hearts to ground them in the Word, so it matters a great deal to them, what they offer you. Here's an example from this particular book in the acknowledgments:
"Grateful appreciation is also extended to Joyce M. Horton for her helpful book on how to teach the catechism to children. This work helped me to focus the book in an orderly direction."
At the end of the "how to use this book" section that gives parents/teachers a helpful outline on how to use the book for either homeschooling or Sunday school lessons, we find this:
"Finally, we recommend that instructors purchase a supplemental cassette tape and song book that is designed to reinforce the catechism questions. This tape and song book are entitled Why Can't I See God? by Judy Rogers."
There is a great deal of research and influence that goes into these workbooks that will bring the teacher and student to a deeper understanding and appreciation of God's word. I really like that. With that said, lets go back to the question of "what is sin?"
Unit 18 of this book is called Sin Breaks God's Law. In contrast above to Barack Obama's statement that sin is what stands outside of his value system, this workbook teaches something much different. It isn't man's standard that determines what sin is or isn't, it's God's law that determines this. The simple Q&A format in the workbook reads like this:
Question: What is sin?
Answer: Any thought, word, or deed that breaks God's law by omission, or commission.
As you can imagine, even though this is a very short answer, it's a loaded answer, and especially for kids. In this very short answer there are 3 categories to cover (thought, word, deed) and within those 3 categories there are 2 sub-categories to address as well in the "doing" and the "not doing". Over-arching all of this is God's law; God's high and holy standard of how His people are to live, function, think, act & react.
In the following unit called The Nature of Sin, both the sin of omission and commission are covered as well, with plenty of Scripture reading and discussion questions so that kids gain a better understanding of what this means and how it applies to them. My kids seem to respond well to real life examples so I use those kinds of examples often. I might start out with "okay, lets use an example... remember when the brown sugar went missing and no one admitted to taking it...?" It's a real example that they all readily identify with. There is a supernatural connection between kids and brown sugar, apparently, since my brother and I did the same thing when we were kids. In the grand scheme of things, missing brown sugar is not the issue, the issue is that motive that drove the kid who took it, then the way they responded when questioned. It's a heart issue, and whether that heart is willingly and eagerly breaking God's law in thought, word or deed, or that heart is desiring to be conformed to the image of Christ. We cover all the categories: what thought led to this deed and how did the guilty party react and what were the first words spoken when questioned? In facet of this one simple example, we can ask the question "did I think/do/not do/react/speak by God's holy standard, or by my own standard?" When God's law is the bar by which we judge our own motives, we find ourselves falling far short, quite often. Yet, it's still the foundation for true morality and holiness.
Its certainly not pleasant, nor is it easy to address sin in our lives, or the lives of those we love. It hurts, its shameful, it causes us to grieve, and its ugly. This is perfectly normal for a Christian. It is the way it should make us feel, since sin is 100% contrary to the holiness of God. If we don't feel bad, if we don't feel embarassed or exposed, or if we excuse it away to comfort ourselves with some kind of warm-fuzzy feeling, then something is dreadfully wrong with the way we understand sin, understand God's standard, and understand what He expects from us.
Just some things to think about.