I was sitting in class when my professor asked “What is the worst sin?” Having grown up in church my mind immediately wandered to several sexual sins, murder, and being a lukewarm Christian. But all of them didn’t seem to be bad enough for being the worst sin. Then it flashed into my mind “The worst sin is whatever opposes the greatest command.”
What is sin?
The Bible uses many words for sin, and each word has slightly different connotations. Maybe it could be summarized that sin (Greek: hamartia) means missing the mark (like an arrow missing the target). But what is the mark? The mark is to live as human beings in the way God intended since the beginning. God created us to be his image-bearers (Gen 1:27). Our lives should reflect his nature of love. We are made for love, to be loved and to love. As well, God put us in charge of this world (Gen 1:28). He made us to reign this world according to his way of love. Whenever we don’t reflect God’s character and whenever we leave his way of love, we miss the mark. Whenever we distort what it means to be genuinely human, we miss the mark.
Throughout the centuries, we forgot how to live as God’s image-bearers. We became broken image-bearers. We became enslaved to sin, we forgot what we were made for. Jesus came to show us again what it looks like to be genuinely human. He came to start a revolution of love. He was the perfect image-bearer, and his whole life modeled to us what it looks like to reflect God’s character. Through his death and resurrection, he freed us from the slavery of sin and opened a door for us to become again what he originally intended for us to be.
The way of the kingdom
Jesus taught the counterintuitive way of the kingdom which is characterized by loving enemies, forgiveness, restorative justice, humility, and self-sacrificial love. Following Jesus means following the way of the kingdom. This starts at home. Loving people that are far away is easy, but showing continuous self-sacrificial love and forgiveness to the people that are around us is difficult. It takes humility and boldness. It means loving your spouse like Christ loves his church (at the bottom is a description of what that true love is like). It means laying down your own desires and helping others reach their dreams. It means stepping out of the comfort zone and reaching out to the poor and last. True love is costly, but it’s worth it.
The worst sin
The Bible doesn’t define the worst sin. So maybe it’s a silly attempt to define a “worst sin” (so please forgive my silliness). But if there is a worst sin, then it is surely whatever opposes the greatest command (Mt 22:37-39). If loving God and loving your neighbor is the greatest command, then opposing it is the worst sin.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that treating your spouse unkindly and abusing a child are equally bad. Both actions miss the mark and fail to follow the greatest command of love, but they have consequences of varying intensity. The more our actions dehumanize a person, the worse they are.
True love — A description
God created us to be people characterized by true love. But what does true love look like? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Paul gives us a description of what true love (Greek Agape) is like. He describes love with several Greek words that are rich in meaning. This translation (from the book “The Great Victor—Love never fails”) tries to bring out some of the rich meaning of these words:
Agape Love patiently bears hurts, inflicted by others, without retaliation (makrothymei).
Agape Love intentionally treats others with respect and compassion (chrēsteuetai).
Agape Love does not begrudge the status and success of another, but delights in it for the sake of the other (zēloi).
Agape Love doesn’t heap praise on itself (perpereuetai).
Agape Love doesn’t behave arrogantly and is not inflated with its own importance (physioutai).
Agape Love doesn’t treat others indecently, but shows honor and consideration for others (aschēmonei).
Agape Love doesn’t seek its own advantage, but the good of others. Agape doesn’t insist on its own way (zētei ta heautēs).
Agape Love doesn’t react with offended bitterness, aggressive insults, or quick-tempered anger when offended by others (paroxynetai).
Agape Love keeps no record of wrongs (logizetai ou to kakon).
Agape Love does not take pleasure in unjust, sinful behavior, neither in others nor in oneself, it does not praise injustice or behavior that contradicts the will of God and the example of Christ. But it joyfully celebrates truth, which makes it honest and open because it has nothing to hide (ou chairei epi tē adikia de synchairei tē alētheia).
Agape Love always bears the faults of others (stegei).
Agape Love never ceases to have faith in God’s ability to bring good out of evil (pisteuei).
Agape Love refuses to take failure as final and always trusts in the ultimate success of God’s plan (elpizei).
Agape Love endures through all kinds of challenges and never dies (hypomenei).
Agape Love never comes to an end. Agape Love never fails (oudepote piptei).
God’s love endures forever
While many people might see love like this as weak and stupid or a noble and unreachable ideal, this is the kind of love that characterizes God and should characterize his children (John 13:35). God invites us to join his mission to redeem this broken world through being people filled with and guided by true love (Greek: agape). Whenever we don’t live up to this kind of love, we miss the mark. But we don’t need to despair. God’s loyal love endures forever (Ps 136).
103:8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful; he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love. 103:9 He does not always accuse, and does not stay angry.103:10 He does not deal with us as our sins deserve; he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve. (Psalm 103:8-10; NET)
God is faithful even if we fail him, even if we commit the worst sin. His mercy never comes to an end.
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