What is the Christian definition of sin


Sin is the state of distance from God.

The word "Sünde" is related to the German word "Sund", which is used to designate an abyss or a ditch. Contrary to common usage, sin denotes less individual offenses than an attitude: to turn against God, to turn away from God, to want to rise above God. Many biblical stories try to illustrate this.

According to traditional Christian interpretation, the Bible tells us about the origin of sin several times right at the beginning. The story of paradise tells of being seduced. Adam and Eve eat a fruit from the tree of knowledge in the hope of being “like God” (Genesis 3: 5). You cross a limit set by God and thus lose paradise.

The story of fratricide tells of injured pride. Cain envies his brother Abel that God looks upon his sacrifice graciously, but not his. He gets angry and "darkened his gaze," they say. “The Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry? And why do you lower your gaze? Isn't it so: if you are pious, you can look up freely. But if you are not pious, then sin lurks at the door, and it longs for you; but you rule over them. ”(Genesis 4: 6–7) Cain loses his self-control and kills his brother.

The story of the Tower of Babel tells of the attempt to take the place of God. In a fit of hubris, the inhabitants of Babel decide: "Well, let's build a city and a tower, the top of which extends to the sky, that we can make a name for ourselves." (Genesis 11: 4) God intervenes, destroy the tower and disperse the people.

People keep moving away from God and try to put themselves in God's place. According to the Christian understanding, sin is also the cause of interpersonal discrepancies, for injustice, injustice and lack of love.

According to the biblical understanding, wrong done must be atoned for. Life experience shows: This often does not happen during one's lifetime. The biblical answer to this: God ultimately allows justice to prevail and judges every person according to his deeds. So every person asks himself whether he can live before God with a clear conscience.

Can a person stand before God? Soothing a deity with offerings is not a solution to the interpersonal problems that result from sin. In contrast, striving for justice and leading a godly life would be an obvious solution. But it also usually leads to new sin, such as arrogance of the supposedly righteous towards sinners. New calamities lie in this arrogance or self-righteousness. Or also in the glossing over of supposed moral successes. Or finally in denying structural entanglements - for example in an unjust economic system. Anyone who goes into judgment hard with himself will notice: It quickly seems impossible to live before God on your own with a completely clear conscience.

A not entirely successful attempt to describe this forlornness of man drastically is the doctrine of so-called original sin.

According to the doctrine of original sin, sin has been passed on from generation to generation since the Fall of Paradise. The church father Augustine blamed sexual desire for this. This judgment led to a general condemnation of sexuality. According to today's understanding and knowledge, Augustine's one-sided argumentation is neither tenable nor helpful.

Christians believe that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, he suffered a punishment that he did not deserve. It was not his sin, but that of others that brought him to the cross. Christians say: "Christ died for our guilt" - and this vicarious suffering is the starting point for God's reconciliation with mankind. One Christian says: “Only when I trust that Christ is ready to give himself up for me and I no longer have to prove myself can I escape the power of sin. Faith liberates from self-centeredness. "

It was important for the reformers to emphasize that good deeds are a consequence of faith. Those who no longer revolve around themselves have an open heart for others.

Further content and links

  • ask

    Is It Really Necessary to Talk About Sin?

    Answer: Yes, because that adequately describes reality. It would be unrealistic to turn a blind eye to one's own part in the often blatant injustice in the world and pretend it is none of your business. It is just as unrealistic, however, when one surrenders to the supposed overwhelming power of injustice. The Christian doctrine of sin says: The causes of human misery lie in every human being, in the urge to assert and assert oneself. Conversely, the solution lies in renouncing the ability to solve all problems yourself and on your own - in Christian terms: trusting God.

    What are the worst sins?

    Answer: The Protestant churches do not keep lists of sins and virtues. Conversely, however, it helps to work through the commandments in order to gain an understanding of the problematic of sin and to sharpen one's conscience. To do this, young Christians learn the Ten Commandments by heart. According to the evangelical understanding, every Christian is ultimately obliged to his conscience before God.

  • discussion

    For a long time, many Christians believed that the only way to escape sin was to suppress the so-called desires of the body. This led to a strong hostility towards the body in Christianity, to a degradation of sexuality and sensuality - as well as of enjoyment as a whole. This attitude created new suffering. Theologians today emphasize that the Bible largely regards body and soul as an inseparable unit. A theology that is in principle hostile to the body does not correspond to the tradition to which theology refers.

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  • The basic text “Justification and Freedom. 500 years of the Reformation 2017 ”is the fruit of the inner-Protestant understanding and a further contribution to deepening it. The text explains essential theological insights from the Reformation period in the current context.

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  • The meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. A basic text of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), published in 2015 by the Gütersloher publishing house. You can read the publication online here.

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  • Baptism is the festive admission of a person into the Christian community. During the baptismal service, the pastor pours a few drops of water over the head of the person being baptized. The ritual goes back to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

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