The Spiritual Meaning of Sin
When talking with friends over dinner, the topic of sin rarely comes up. When it does, you may notice that once-smiling faces freeze, laughter stops, and if the
moment is truly dramatic, water glasses may suddenly tip over as people leave the table.
The word sin can make you fear that God may not love you when you fall short of doing your best.
The word sin has that effect on people.
When I was growing up in the Catholic church, I would hear the word sin and my heart would start racing as I frantically tried to remember if I had committed a
mortal sin that week, fearing that I would be struck down by lightning in the pew, forever embarrassing my devout grandmother by my thoughtlessness.
The fear of sin has that effect on people.
As I’ve gone deeper in my spiritual journey, I’ve needed to face my fear of sin. Just what is sin? I know that it has religious and moral significance, but does
a spiritual meaning of sin exist, and if so, does the concept of sin have spiritual benefits beyond the guilt and fear it inspires?
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, sin is a morally bad act not in accord with the divine law of God, including the seven deadly sins of pride, avarice,
gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, and anger. Sin is further divided into different categories, including original and actual, mortal and venial, commission and omission, material and
formal, internal and external, and voluntary and habitual (also known as macula peccati reatus culpæ or Ima gonna sinna overa
and overa againa).
To decipher the meaning and gravity of the Roman Catholic definition of sin, you’d need a priest. In fact, repeated confessions to a priest are necessary to
restore salvation after habitual sinning. During the Reformation, Protestants decided that the Roman Catholic concept of sin was a tad too complex, so they simplified it to: You
sin, you repent by declaring faith in Jesus as lord and savior, and you receive a lifetime salvation guarantee. This extended salvation warranty is attractive, but it still brings
up old fears that I habitually disappoint God, forever branding me as a hapless sinner.
What about a spiritual definition of sin? Are there benefits to acknowledging sin on a spiritual level and using this awareness for spiritual growth and renewal?
The original Aramaic word (the language spoken during the time of Jesus) for sin is hataha, which means missing the mark. From a spiritual perspective, you
fall short of doing your best when your intentions are not in alignment with your actions. We all hold good intentions, but we may unconsciously choose actions and behaviors that
do not reflect our intentions. A spiritual awakening is a process of consciously realigning your actions with your positive intentions. Jesus represents a spiritually-awakened
being, aware of his intentions and the effect of his actions upon others. He forgave the classic sinners of the Bible—prostitutes, tax collectors, and the habitual offenders of
purity laws—by recognizing the greater potential of God dwelling within them. This potential, or positive intention, is revealed through the grace of God that Jesus gave freely
to all people he touched. In return, he only asked that people look honestly at their lives and strive to live in the light of God’s truth.
I will guide you to affirm the transformative powers of grace in I Am Forgiven.
The apostle Paul tells us that the grace of God can be used as a mirror, reminding us to see ourselves in the image of Jesus (1 Cor. 13:12). Salvation is a gift of grace bestowed freely upon humankind based on God’s love and compassion, not our
worthiness. Jesus accepted this grace and shared it with others by healing ailments, mending broken faith and accepting the downtrodden into his fold.
So if we follow the grace teachings of Jesus, what is the spiritual benefit of acknowledging sin?
For me, the religious definition of sin has always held a dual meaning—I am wrong and I am not worthy of God’s love. But when I look at sin from a spiritual
perspective, the meaning changes to I missed the mark of my potential this time, but God’s love and grace are always there to guide and remind me of my inner greatness to live a
life of integrity. When I am conscious of my actions and their effect upon others, I make choices that reflect my positive intentions.
God’s grace is a given part of missing the mark. To put God’s forgiveness back into the sin equation, I have added a “g” for God to “sin,” making it “sign.”
Now when I fall short of doing my best, I will take it as a sign to awaken and embrace my higher potential for living.
Find More Do-it-Yourself Spirituality Tools
Use author Vicky Thompson's do-it-yourself spirituality tools to create your own simple spiritual practices.
Copyright © 2002-2010 by Vicky Thompson