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“Sin is a mistake about who you are, and whose you are.

Sin is our cozy image of ourselves as individual and autonomous.”

Richard Rohr, “Immortal Diamond”

(NOTE The word ‘sin’ originally means ‘missing the mark’ or being in error, a mistake.)

The concept of sin as inappropriate moral or ethical behavior can be viewed in three ways:

1 Teaching. As a parent would view a child making a mistake, or doing something against parental expectations. The hoped for attitude of a parent is that both would see the behavior as a learning experience, not deserving of punishment, but of teaching and compassion. (This is mapped in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal son being accepted by his Father despite his mistakes)

2 Defence. As a societal failure and risk, the breaking of a law which requires some form of fine, (karma) or restraint (Jail or confinement to reduce recurrence affecting other citizens) or punishment (retribution for a crime, historically up to the penalty of death) In Hinduism, for example, the term sin (pāpa in Sanskrit) is often used to describe actions that create negative Karma by violating moral and ethical codes, which automatically brings negative consequences.

3 Retribution. As a specific offence against the religious belief that God or the Divine will punish mistakes, specifically in the Abrahamic Religions by eternal punishment or separation from God. However most human experience of Love is as forgiveness, not as retribution or defence.

In all three cases the deciding factor depends on the interpretation of the value of punishment, and the inherent worth of the person who has sinned.

Please view the glossary term for punishment to consider what this implies.

NOTE that all three interpretations of sin depends on the attitude of the person(s) affected, not the person who is sinning. It is worthwhile to consider if there is judgment and if so what is behind that judgment, in assessing sin. After all, Jesus taught “Judge not and you will not be judged.”


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