The Best Definition of Sin I’ve Ever Read

Most of the definitions of “sin” that I’ve read, or heard, tend to focus on ethics, the “10 Commandments” (but really only #6-10), the “Sermon on the Mount”, maybe some of the lists of St. Paul. All of these have solid precedence for following. Still, something has always been missing for me. None of these taken alone did much for me beyond causing more of a sense of guilt. Earlier this summer I finally found a definition that articulated vague ideas that I had never been able to put into words and, truthfully, made me feel better for knowing! Ironically, the words were not penned by an illustrious theologian, a brilliant philosopher, or a wise, old minister; rather, they came from a novelist who made his living as the head writer of the soap opera, “One Lift to Live”!

The writer is Michael Malone. The novel is titled, appropriately, Handling Sin. It’s a story both hilarious and sweet, and full of quirky, delightful characters. The definition of “sin” arises in a scene between a soon-to-be-defrocked, Episcopalian priest and his nine-year-old son, Raleigh – nicknamed “Specs.” Raleigh tells his father, the Father, of a situation in Sunday School that disturbed him. “Mrs. Jimson [the Sunday School teacher] wrote all these sins on the blackboard. And she says if we do any of them, we have to go to Hell, even if we aren’t even grown-ups.” A scene that reminds me of all too many definitions and discussions I’ve witnessed myself, or worse, participated in.

Raleigh’s father replies:

‘Mrs. Jimson is a horse’s ass.’
‘Cursing’s one of the sins.’
Raleigh flushed with excitement. He looked at his father’s face, only inches away…He could see his own face in the dark center of the blue eyes.
‘Specs, remember when Christ said there were really only two commandments…Love…’
‘I already know. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘Right.’ His father rubbed the boy’s corduroy knee. ‘Well, there’s only one sin…What do you think it is?’
Raleigh looked in the eyes for a clue to the answer. He didn’t like being wrong. ‘…Not loving them?’

There it is. The best definition of sin I’ve ever read.


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  2. Martyn’s Lloyd-jones wrote a Christian classic called Spiritual Depression. Page 30 under the chapter The True Foundation …..he was explaining the real purpose for the giving of the law ……” the way to know yourself as a sinner is not to compare yourself with other people; it is to come face to face with the Law of God. Which is? Thou shalt not kill , thou shalt not steal ? ‘ I have never done that , therefore I am not a sinner ‘ But that is not the Law of God in its entirety. Would you like to know what the Law of God is ? Here it is – Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart , and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and thy strength :this is the first commandment. And the second is like , namely this , Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself . Forget all the drunkards and their like…..Here is the test for you and me ; Are you loving God with all your being ? If you are not , you are a sinner . That is the test ……. that’s the one sin we all commit …’ not lovin them ‘ Thanks for your blog….I’ll check out that book …..

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