It’s Monday Grace!
Someone pointed out years ago that the word “sin” means to “miss the mark.” I have heard teachers use that concept and use archery as the illustration. They said that sinning is like missing the bullseye on the target.
Well, there are several things wrong with that, such as equating mistakes with sin, but the primary failure of the illustration is the idea that sin happens at the completion of an action. In other words, it is only sin when you actually do the thing. Jesus challenged that in Matthew 5, using the illustration of lust. He said that it isn’t just lust when a man commits an act of abuse or infidelity, but it is lust when the idea is conceived in his heart.
When does the archer miss the mark or bullseye? At what point does the miss occur? The arrow flies according to the course set for it in the beginning. The error happens when the archer releases the arrow. If he is lined up correctly, taking into consideration the various conditions, the arrow will hit the mark. If that is not the case—before the arrow is released—the arrow will miss the mark.
In the same way, sin was a part of our lives before we did anything. The error came from who and what we were. A wise teacher asked me several years ago if I sinned because I was a sinner or if I was a sinner because I sinned. It’s a good question! The answer is that I sinned because I was a sinner. I was a sinner before I sinned. The brokenness was in me before I ever gave evidence to its reality.
When I say that I have sinned, I mean that I lived according to my nature, my identity. I lived out of my flesh, the way I learned to cope apart from Jesus. Now, because of Jesus, my identity is new and His life is in me. My old nature is gone, but my memory remains. My flesh continues as long as I am in this world, and too often I draw from that memory or pattern of living as I make decisions today. I sin, but I am no longer identified as a sinner. Jesus has recreated me!
Saying that I have sinned is a confession that I have lived apart from the Lord, and I have acted out of my identity apart from Him. Before I knew Jesus, my sin was my way of trying to satisfy the desires of a broken person. I hurt others and disobeyed God because I was more concerned about myself. Every sin in my life was a testimony that I needed Jesus.
Now that I know Jesus, and He has saved me, my sin is still a reminder. It reminds me that I have been recreated and am no longer what I was. It is evidence that the old way still influences me through my memory and life patterns. But it is not evidence of my identity. In fact, sin today is contrary to my identity. That’s why I feel my sin so much more, why it grieves me.
So, yes, we still sin insofar as we still do the things that the Lord warned us about. Our flesh still looks to the old ways as we make decisions. It is important for each of us to look to the Spirit for guidance, rather than to our flesh. It is possible for us to choose a different course, a different action.
And the trajectory of my life and yours is no longer what it was apart from Jesus. The newness of life in us, our identification with Him, means that we will hit exactly the mark He has set for us. Sin no longer defines us, no longer determines our future. Things have changed because of Jesus.