The Three Levels of Sin

The word echoes in our ears like a gunshot. It is bold, loud, startling, and powerful. This word has altered lives—and history. Our culture doesn’t like to hear about sin. It’s judgmental. It isn’t tolerant—and certainly not politically correct.

While the dominant culture has worked for decades to cast aside “antiquated” ideas like sin, some Christians seem obsessed with it. Sin seems to make their world go round. They preach sin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Oh, they might “speak the truth” at times, but the “in love” part often falls by the wayside.1 The emphasis on sin—at the expense of the liberation of the Gospel—ends up bearing little resemblance to anything Christ ever said.

For some, the mere mention of sin causes shame, fear, and provocation. For others, the word triggers arrogance and reveals an intended autonomy from God. Still others feel sin provides an important explanation, helping us to make sense of our world and ourselves.

No matter how you react to the idea of sin, let me invite you to forget for a moment your preconceived notions. Set aside your religious anger or your biblically-accurate definitions, even though there may be reasons to hold on to both. For the length of this article, I ask you to open yourself to a different understanding of sin, one that may help you see your life in new, exciting, and profound ways.

With your permission, I will now write about sin as a real and powerful force in our daily lives.

Crime or Wound?

The undeniable fact is that sin has altered everyone we love, and marred every good thing – even the Son of God. Sin is the one thing that will hold you back from a life of peace and understanding. One of Christianity’s finest writers, Oswald Chambers, understood this well. He wrote:

At the beginning of life we do not reconcile ourselves to the fact of sin. We take a rational view of life and say that a man, by controlling his instincts, and by educating himself, can produce a life which will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we go on, we find the presence of something which we have not taken into consideration, viz., sin, and it upsets all our calculations. Sin has made the basis of things wild and not rational…It is not being reconciled to the fact of sin that produces all the disasters of life.2

Chambers had a keen understanding of the stickiness of sin in our modern sensibilities. He may even have described you in the passage above. Perhaps you have experienced life in a wild or irrational manner. Perhaps, this is why you came to Pure Intimacy. While Chambers calls us to recognize sin in our lives and reconcile ourselves to its existence, we need to have an accurate view of sin.

A healthy understanding of sin reveals that we are not simply “bad,” but deeply—even fatally—wounded.3 If we want to know true self-acceptance, we must come to terms with all that sin is and has been in our lives.

  • Sandi posed the most difficult question I had ever heard. “Where was God when my brother was raping me?”
  • Bill’s dad was violent toward his mom. Bill wants his father to know Christ, but fears the confrontation surrounding this abuse will drive his dad away.
  • Steve and Dawn are surprised by their marital stress. The first three years they lived together were like a storybook romance. Shortly after Dawn became pregnant, they married. Now, they hardly know each other.

Sin’s Destructive Power

Sin alters human lives. Rape altered Sandi’s life. A violent home changed Bill’s life. Premarital sex injured Steve and Dawn’s marriage.

Our culture winks at sin, but God weeps over it. He alone understands its devastation. No good parent enjoys seeing his child in pain. How much more our Father must grieve for us. The attitude of our society toward God’s principles is like that of an adolescent rebelling against the curfew a parent sets to keep him safe, or the new car owner who never reads the owner’s manual and burns up the engine for lack of an oil change. When God says “You shall not…” He’s not being a spoilsport. He’s begging us not to jump off that cliff! Sadly, the Christian message often either fails to reveal God’s heart or waters down the truth about sin’s trauma and sense of bondage.

If we are to enjoy the life God gave us, we must see that sin is an enemy to our personal happiness and every relationship in our lives—including how we relate to God. If its power is unchecked in our lives, sin undermines all that is good and good for us; sin’s author hates God and all that He loves.4

Sin is not only missing the mark in our lives, but is a power bending us toward continually missing the mark. It enslaves.5 In fact, the historic city of Rome—known for its high percentage of slaves at the time—received a letter from Paul with one section describing sin with words reserved for one with power over us: “Reign,” “your master,” “obey its evil desires,” and five references to “slavery to sin” or impurity.6

The Bible teaches that God has an enemy called Satan. God has limited Satan’s powers, but Satan wages war against us. He launches attacks on us in three important ways:

  • original sin,
  • the sins of others against us, and
  • the sins we commit.

Level One

Original Sin: A Universal Spiritual Condition

The belief known as “original sin” comes from the Creation story. Satan tricked the first human beings, Adam and Eve, with a lie. He challenged God’s goodness and love for them. In a moment of impulse, they did the only thing that God had forbidden. They ate a piece of fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Can you imagine living in paradise and being placed in charge of it? What a job! Adam and Eve were essentially partners with God. Their relationships with Him were perfectly intimate. No shame or blame. No unhealthy fears.

The serpent pretended to have Eve’s best interest at heart. His counterfeit intimacy tricked Eve. Sin altered her. She in turn introduced Adam to sin.

Sin warped the first person, and then the first person sinned against the second one. This pattern of sinning and being sinned against continues today. Sin recycles the trauma of humanity.

The universal condition of original sin continually challenges us. According to Romans 5:12, “…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin…because all sinned.” Sin leads us to be independent and rebellious, which leaves us with a profound intimacy disorder. If we aren’t at peace with our Maker, how can we expect to be at peace with others, or even ourselves?

Fortunately, our story continues past humankind’s fall into sinfulness. Christ came to earth several thousand years later to rescue humanity. And, as wonderful an ending as we find in His promise to return one day, we still must cope in the meantime with paradise lost.

Lovense Max