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Sin

Sin, accord­ing to the scrip­tures is “law­less­ness” and “wrong­do­ing” (1 Jn 3:4, 5:17). To do wrong and to be unright­eous is to sin. In the Greek lan­guage the word sin orig­i­nal­ly meant “miss­ing the mark,” that is, mov­ing in the wrong direc­tion, toward the wrong aims and goals. It means choos­ing and going in the way of death, and not the way of life.

There are many scrip­tur­al expres­sions for sin, all of which pre­sup­pose a pri­mor­dial right­ness and good­ness. The word fall indi­cates a move­ment down and away from an orig­i­nal high and lofty state. The word stain reveals that there was once an orig­i­nal puri­ty that has been defiled. The word trans­gres­sion means a move­ment against that which is pri­mar­i­ly right. The word guilt reveals pri­or inno­cence. The words estrange­ment and alien­ation indi­cate that one was first “at home,” liv­ing in a sound and whole­some con­di­tion. The word devi­a­tion means that one has gone off his orig­i­nal way.

There are no words for sin which do not reveal in their very utter­ance that sin is an unnat­ur­al state of man, a con­di­tion brought about by the destruc­tion, dis­tor­tion, and loss of some­thing good which was orig­i­nal­ly present. Every sin and wicked­ness exists only because man’s being and life are nat­u­ral­ly pos­i­tive and good. Every evil and sin act only as “par­a­sites’’ on that which is pri­mar­i­ly per­fect and whole. Thus, in the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion, sin is not con­sid­ered to be a nor­mal and nat­ur­al part of human being and life. To be human and to be a sin­ner is con­tra­dic­to­ry. Rather, to be tru­ly human is to be right­eous, pure, truth­ful, and good. Spir­i­tu­al life, in this sense, con­sists of only one thing: not to sin. Not to sin is to be like God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is the goal of human life.

Every­one who com­mits sin is guilty of law­less­ness; sin is law­less­ness. You know that Christ appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has either seen Him nor known Him. Lit­tle chil­dren, let no one deceive you. He who does right is right­eous, as He is right­eous. He who com­mits sin is of the dev­il; for the dev­il has sinned from the begin­ning. The rea­son the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the dev­il. No one born of God com­mits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he can­not sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are chil­dren of Cod, and who are chil­dren of the dev­il; who­ev­er does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his broth­er (1 Jn 3:4–10).

Not to sin is the goal of human life. But in fact all peo­ple do sin. It is for this rea­son that the pos­si­bil­i­ty to be freed from sin and to over­come sin comes through the sav­ing work of Christ, who for­gives the sins of the world.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive our­selves, and the truth is not in us. If we con­fess our sins, He is faith­ful and just, and will for­give our sins and cleanse us from all unright­eous­ness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My lit­tle chil­dren, I am writ­ing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advo­cate with the Father, Jesus Christ the right­eous; and He is the expi­a­tion for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. …by this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked (1 Jn 1:8–2:6).