Allow us to just sit back and think about sin for a moment. Not to give it any high place in our mind but to actually think about what it is.
Q: What is sin? A: The scriptures tell us that it is lawlessness.
Q: What is lawlessness? A: Anything that goes against the law of God.
Q: What is the law of God? A: Under the new covenant that we have through faith in Jesus Christ it is love.
Q: What is love?
This is the crux of the issue because so many people do not know what love really is. And without an understanding of what love is we cannot even begin to talk about how to display it; or in reference to sin, how not to display it.
A simple definition found in most dictionaries and internet searches says that love is: 1) (Noun) an intense feeling of deep affection 2) (Verb) to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.
Q: Is this really what love is in the context of God? A: No
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”
The word for love that Jesus uses here is Agape, which means an unconditional and sacrificial love. It is no mistake that Jesus uses this word because it helped the listener, and later the reader, understand what this love is. Agape is a spiritual and divine love as opposed to Eros, which is a passionate or physical love, or Phileo, which is the love of family or mankind. In both instances, Jesus uses the word Agape to describe the type of love we are to have as Christians.
Our Agape to God is to keep his commandments and his directed teachings. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is how we display Agape to God, by keeping his commandments. In light of Matthew 22:37-40 we see that this is how we show that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Jesus tells us that this is the first and greatest commandment. It is second to none. Why is this important? Because it sets up the second commandment to be in its rightful place.
To ‘Agape our neighbor as ourselves’ is to unconditionally love them and be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them but in the context of the greatest commandment. Here is an example: If you have a friend who is a homosexual, you are to unconditionally love them to the point of death if necessary. It does not say that you are to condone their actions; on the contrary, you are to guide them to the knowledge of their sin so that they will be saved. Remember, we want all people to Agape God before their neighbors so that they understand what all the love is about.
This is the key to understanding the love of our neighbors. We love them to show Christ to them so that they may have eternal life with us; not to just love them for loves sake. No matter how hard it may be or what it may cost you personally you should be willing to show them Christ in all that you do, even unto death. Remember, Agape is sacrificial love and 1 John 4:16 says that God is Agape.
So in light of what we have uncovered, what is sin? Sin is anything that is not us showing Agape first to God and then to our neighbors. Scary yeah? Sin can be something that we do without even realizing it but that is probably why the scriptures say there is sin leading to death and sin not leading to death.
For a sinner, which is anyone who does not have full faith in Jesus for salvation, sin as a behavior is anything that goes against God and his law. Because a sinner does not know Jesus, the law is applied to them and so all sins lead to death. But when a person is a Christian we know that we are to stay away from sin but that we have an avenue for repentance in that Jesus is our intermediary to God. Also, because we are striving for perfection but not yet perfect, any unintentional sins are covered by the blood of Christ. What are unintentional sins? Failing to love either God or our neighbor properly due to our fallen human (fleshly) nature. This is different from intentional sin in that intentional sin would be premeditated or gross spiritual negligence on our part.
Personally, and this is just me contemplating on the subject, I think that God understands that we, as humans, will not always get it right. We will not always love our neighbors no matter how hard we try. When someone does something horrible to you it is really hard to love them unconditionally and be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them. Nevertheless, that is what we are supposed to do.
For me, many think that I have an awful lot of hate for people. It is not uncommon for me to call out sinful behavior when I am teaching, preaching, or just posting to the internet. Please know that I do hate the behavior but I try really really hard to love the person. I am by no means perfect but I am working on that, as should we all be.
Love, true Agape, is not an easy task but it is one that we should never shy away from. It is, after all, the first two commands that we, as Christians, have.