A few weeks ago the “Village Kids” class, with assistance from our own Goddess of Wisdom Sandy Dolan, came up with a list of bad behaviors called “Sins ????.” 

Their fundamental underlying questions were these: 

  • Are these a sin?
  • What is a sin? 
  • When is “bad behavior” not a sin? 
  • When is “good behavior” a sin? 
  • How can I try to stop sinning?

So, here is the list they came up with, accompanied with the question: Are these things a sin? As you read down the list, see what you think. Are these “behaviors” a sin … or not a sin:

  • If I get mad at a sibling?
  • Using bad language?
  • Is vaping a sin?
  • Is it a sin to bring wrong stuff to school?
  • If I exclude people?
  • To take someone’s belongings?
  • Use God’s name in vain?
  • Taking a cookie when told not to?
  • Telling a lie?
  • Stealing?
  • Is it a sin to drink (alcohol)?
  • Gossip?

So, what do you think? How many of these “bad behaviors” are sins, and how many of them aren’t? And why? 

I suppose if we were living in the “Old Testament” age and were followers of God, then we would have written rules which most likely would say that all of these things are “bad behavior,” forbidden, against the rules, and thus, sins. It’s so easy to know what is right and wrong when it’s written down in plain English (or Hebrew, such as the case may be!). In that age, in that system of laws and rules, I think all of these behaviors would be counted as sins against God and thus, things you would be punished for by God. 

But did you know — that would be the wrong way to think about such things. Enforcing a system like that may be simple, and easy, but it’s very wrong, and harmful. And of all the lessons the Old Testament teaches us, perhaps this is the most important one. 

The truth about sin is that it is not defined by behavior. It is based on your relationship with God and your willingness and ability to act according to God’s will. Now, I can tell you – that’s not easy, and it’s not simple, but it’s the truth. Bad behavior may be the consequence of sin … but it is not the sin. 

Let’s think about it a minute: The Israelites and their descendants spent generations believing that life “with God” was all about following the laws and the rules. After all, those laws were given directly to Moses from God, and he was told to take them to the people. But the truth is, those laws were not intended to confine the people to a life of sin and punishment (because honestly, no one person could keep all 613 laws perfectly). Rather, they were intended to give the people a model for living their lives in obedience to God – an important step in being formed into a godly people, a people capable of leading the world into a new way of life. 

But the Israelites used these laws to draw lines between them and others, and to keep order and control among themselves as a “chosen people.” The people of the world outside their tribe were not given the law from God, and therefore, they believed, could not be part of what God was doing in the world. And the people within the tribe who could not keep the laws that God gave them would be punished by God in some appropriate way – falling ill, birthing a lame child, losing a season of crops, etc.

The Israelites were good lawmakers and enforcers – they just forget the love! God’s whole reason for creating us and relating to us is love. Nothing can extinguish love as quickly as a rigid and strict system of laws. Finally, God put an end to this law-based system of faith by entering the world himself and showing us what obedience and love look like when there are integrated perfectly in a human life. That life, of course, is the life of Jesus Christ, the perfect combination of fully human and fully divine. 

You’re thinking – “Now wait just a minute, Pastor Bob!!! That’s all well and good and very interesting (!!!!), but what about that list that the Village Kids came up with? And after all that expository, how do I know which rules to follow?” 

The answer is, we are called to follow God’s will and the way of Jesus in all we do. That is the goal of each one of our lives. That is the reason God put us on this earth. That is the true fulfillment of our life’s purpose. And with that, then the answer is between you and God …

When we act in ways that are against the will of God, ways that separate us from the love of Jesus, then we sin. When we act in our best efforts to be in accordance with God’s will and Jesus’s way, then we avoid sin.

I know … I know … the list, the list! Simply put, each one of the behaviors on the list could be a sin … and each one of them might not be a sin. It all starts in your heart. For instance … if you are angry at someone and desire to make them feel bad, then calling them a profane name to their face is a sin. However, if you have no malice in your heart towards a person, and aren’t really sure what the meaning of the word is even though it is profane, but you call the person that anyway, that is not a sin. Your heart was pure in that instance. You were not exerting your own self-will against the will of God. You were not intentionally exalting yourself over someone else at their expense. Rather, you behaved badly, but innocently. Thus, not a sin. 

I could go down the entire list and offer an example for each one when a certain action would be a sin, and when it wouldn’t be. Sins are not rules! A sin is acting against the will of God. Often, that will result in bad behavior. But on the other hand, we could, and even should, sometimes “break the rules” in order to do God’s will. Go ahead – try it yourself. Go down the list and imagine how each behavior could be a sin, and when it wouldn’t be a sin.   

Bottom-line: the sin is not in the behavior itself. Otherwise, why would eating a good piece of fruit be a sin? The sin is in the heart of the person … which is why humans are never good judges of the sinful behavior of others — because only God knows the heart of a person. 

Keepin’ it real, 

Pastor Bob