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Pointers along the way #145

Sin or not sin?
- Jacob Ninan

The Bible says that when there is no law, there is no violation. Where there is no law sin is not imputed (Ro.4:15;5:13). In this context we must not think of 'law' as the old testament laws or as the ten commandments, but more generally as knowledge of what is sin. The meaning is that when a man does what he does not know to be wrong, he is not going to be held responsible for that wrong.

But does it mean that when someone does wrong ignorantly, what he has done is not wrong? No! It is still wrong, even if he doesn't know it.

Many people believe that sin is relative, that if we think something is sin it is sin for us, and if we think something is not sin it is alright for us. These are 'new age' philosophies mostly taken from eastern religions which have a very loose concept of sin. But this is totally contrary to the Bible which teaches us that sin is to go against God's eternal rules of behaviour, attitudes, values, priorities, etc. When we transgress these rules or standards, we sin in God's eyes, whether we know it or not. If we do them in ignorance God may not impute sin to us, but they are sins all the same.

Lev.4 teaches us a principle about what we should do about sins which we have committed in ignorance or unintentionally. God tells Israel that if someone comes to know that what he had done earlier was wrong, he should then make a sin offering for it. What this means for us is that when we realise that something we had done earlier was wrong, we need to acknowledge that sin and ask God for forgiveness. Perhaps there would be a need to set things right with someone else also. We can't just gloss over our past sins saying that we did them in ignorance.

This self-acknowledgment is very important for us if we are to grow in our spiritual life. As we get closer to God and His light becomes brighter, we are able to see 'sin' with greater clarity. We must then confess those sins that we discover in us and ask for forgiveness and deliverance, so that we can become more holy.

For example let us think about anger. In the beginning we may consider shouting at others or even hitting them physically as 'OK' because we think the others deserve them. When we become convicted about this, we may work on controlling our outbursts, and when we have succeeded in that we imagine that now we have victory over anger. But after some time we realise that we are still burning with anger inside. Then after we get over that, we discover that it is difficult to forgive them. After some time we feel that forgiving them is not enough but we must be able to pray for them and bless them. This is how we should progress in every aspect of life.

The Bible says that the law was given so that transgressions might increase (Ro.5:20). The meaning is that as we get more understanding on God's standards, our idea of sin will become clearer and finer. So let us get closer to God and become more conformed to His ways.