Question 16: What is sin?
Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.
According to my son, Joshua (at age 6), the answer was, “Sin is the opposite of obedience; also called sodium alginate mixed with potassium chloride.” He was really into his chemistry set at the time.
On a more serious note, a little disobedience here and there may not seem like such a big deal but it results in death, destruction, disintegration, and eternal torment. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened... Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:21-32)
We often think about sin in terms of specific actions - lying or stealing, for example. But sin is more than just individual acts of disobedience; it is an attitude of the heart - a result of our fallen nature. The heart of sin is loving something more than we love God Himself. We may love money or fame or family or autonomy or self or the earth or humanity or any number of things more than we love God. This love of other things leads us to ignore or rebel against God and to violate His laws.
There is good news, though. Jesus, God in the flesh, bore the wrath of God on behalf of those who trust Him.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
When we begin to trust God in our lives - as we come to know and experience God more and our desires shift from other things to God Himself – sin begins to lose its grip on us. We cease being slaves to sin and become slaves to God. Instead of the death and destruction that is the result of sin, we are blessed with life, peace, and – best of all – God Himself.