We encounter this term almost every day, in fact we have several quotes and sayings that either refer to the act – sin, or the point of committing the act – sinning. May it be that we do not really know what sin is.
Generally, sin is defined as an act against any moral law, a transgression against a divine law. The Christian definition says it is a transgression against God. This carefully dissociates sin from the term offence, crime, misdeed or misdemeanor which are the synonyms of the word, but mostly referred to for civil disobedience.
Given this definition it is make it rather clear that – “sin is an act of wrong doing, an act of wickedness or and evil act that offends a deity or is contrary to the teachings of belief, religion and faith.”
The ethos here is that for a sin to be committed, it must: first, be an act of man. It is unthinkable for animals to commit a sin since even if they have memories and emotions, they do not have a cogitative mind that can be comparable to the human mind that is aware of what is right and wrong. For an action to be considered an act of man, the resultant event has gone through a process, sensory input, thought process, resultant emotion and compelling reason – then the act itself.
This is the reason why minors are not tried in court, no matter how heinous their crime because moral law presupposes that they do not yet have full command of their mental capacities. Although, there have been several debates on establishing – what is the real age, when the rudimentary concept of what is right and wrong becomes a settled understanding in a person’s mind.
Second, the act must be wrong or evil or against a moral or divine law. In this case the base premise is the moral or divine law. The determination of what makes an act wrong must not be based simply on what is wrong in the eyes of society, but must also be seen from what is acceptable and forgiveable versus what is unacceptable and unforgivable based on a certain set of beliefs and norms, either from a god or a belief.
This can best be exemplified in such instance where a father cleaning his gun; left it to get something, his 5-year old child picks it up, makes those moves as he sees in the movies and accidentally fires the gun killing his father. Killing is a mortal sin and against both civil and divine law, but it is unacceptable to punish the child for doing what he thinks is fun.
This is also one of the reason why ISIS is bold and brutal in killing non-Muslims, because they have judged these people to be against their beliefs. While we are shocked, sickened and angered by their act, the divine law provides that we cannot deprive any man to practice his belief. What is left to us – is to argue the interpretation of the rules of that belief. Following the same logic, the brutal response elicited by this act becomes justified as the same divine law provides that people have to the right to defend themselves or form into coalitions to defend others who share the same faith. The question then – which divine law should prevail?
Lastly, by the very nature of the term divine law, it assumes that there is a divine, a deity which serves as the judge of what is wrong or right. The applicability of the divine law should have transcended the boundaries of religion and colour. The divine law is centred on mankind’s existence on earth, good manners, right attitude towards others, mutual respect and understanding of life and properties.
Rightly so, humans as we are, we have always seen that the grass is greener over in another’s pasture. So when we see the person to be weak, we pounce and grab. Each time we do this, we feel that rush of victory and power that us yearn for more. Just like a drug addict looking for his next fix. When we have taken everything we can, somebody with a bigger army comes and crushes us. The divine law, abused and even manipulated to justify acts of wrongdoings. History is full of stories of those who have used the name of god for their own selfish ambitions, which sadly is still happening today.
Let me go back to our definition – sin is an act against the moral or divine law. How can there be a moral or divine law if there is nobody moral or divine? Divinity is not something ethereal. It must have an entity upon which an act against is considered a transgression. Like raping nature is a sin against the earth, but raping a woman is not against the earth, neither is it against the woman, because that is physical abuse – who then is offended when we perform such acts as, rape, killing, brutality, plunder and stealing? Aside from those who wished that they have done the act themselves.
Here in this process, where man is asked to judge man, is the bastardization of the conscience of the divine law and the divinity of the deity upon which the law was founded. When the law of acts against nature is argued to be against the law of development and economic growth. When the law against mankind, is justified by invoking the law of the jungle and survival, where meek and weak must be subservient to the strong and the victors.
We argue on which act is more acceptable – the survival of man or the survival of the divine law? For those who interpret the law are men, and their interest being man is also that of survival, it is expected that in many cases, the divine law is cast aside. Further, since nobody can be considered as authority and can ably defend it, it succumbs to the interpretation of the man who has in its best interests his own survival. Not to mention that he also profits and enjoys the protection of the interpretation.
Sin in this case is not a transgression of the divine law per se, but rather a crime against man’s interpretation of the divine law. So if a person fights for his right to live, speaks about the truth of abuse and exploitation done to him, he is well within his rights under the divine law, but has sinned against those who are powerful and interpreted the law to favour themselves and their interest. And, as the spoils of interpretation goes to the victor, he who is more powerful will always be right.
This is where the beauty of the words of Jesus in the bible – “Let he who has not sinned be the first to cast the stone.” (John 8:7) These words not only defined the law, but establishes the fact that each one has committed a sin against this law, not only by interpreting it the wrong way, also by not standing to defend it. The sins of commission and omission.
Following this line of thought then, beyond the application of its religious meanings, one of the basis by which we can interpret the divine law is the two commandments of Jesus. “To love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbors as you love yourself.” (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30-31).
Loving God includes the love for everything he made, and since God is conceived to be good, just and kind – loving Him requires following in His footsteps. The second rule defines the law for others, to be treated and respected as we have treated and respected ourselves.
Sin therefore is when we transgress against these commandments. Regardless of reason or logic, explanations and justifications, we are answerable for all our acts against these laws. We are expressly not allowed to pass judgement, much less penalize anyone on this sins, until the act becomes a civil liability. Simply this means, when a man looks lasciviously and lust for a woman’s body, the sin remains to be divine, punishable by the divine. But when the man rapes the woman, it then is not just divinely wrong, but also civilly wrong and the laws of man comes to play.
Lastly, when the sins that man has committed is been forgiven by society, this does not mean that the divine law has also forgiven him. For the day of reckoning is yet to come and all these will be accounted for.
Peace be with all of us…