“By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:20-23
We have been told to abandon sin, to forsake sin, and not to sin. But what is sin? What does it mean to sin? And once we know, how do we avoid it?
Missing the Mark
Sin is generally defined as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law” (Lexico).The Hebrew word translated to “sin” in the Tanakh or Old Testament however is “chata’ah” (חטאה). Chata’ah comes from the root word “chet” (חטא) which means to “miss the mark.” To the ancient Israelites, this meant to neglect one’s obligation, whether to man or to God.
Chata’ah is a feminine noun, meaning that it describes or represents our will to receive. When we sin, we take into ourselves a desire that is off the path to God. We, in a sense, become the Biblical Eve. In the garden of Eden, Eve wanted to have all God had to offer, even that which she was forbidden (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6; Book of Remembrance 4:11-13, 7:11-24). Her sin wasn’t eating the fruit, but disregarding what God had instructed. She missed the mark by partaking the fruit of the tree before its time (Book of Remembrance 9:42-44, Happiness Letter 1:16-17). She didn’t wait for God’s time or do it for God. She took for herself.
Back to Teshuvah
Understanding the true word, chata’ah, we gain a new perspective of “sin.” Sin isn’t a blemish, it is human error. It is us seeking our own desires rather than seeking what God desires for us. Fortunately, there is a remedy, a way back onto the path of teshuvah. Sin/chata’ah can be corrected by strengthening our relationship with God. Seeking God is what makes us Israel, and puts and keeps us on that path of teshuvah. We seek forgiveness and improve our behavior as we move forward in Christ. He is the potter, and we are the clay.
God doesn’t want us wallowing in self pity, guild, or shame. That’s Satan. All fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). God knew this and this is why Jesus’ role was a part of the plan from the beginning (John 1:1-5). Through teshuvah, we return to God in Christ, and grow in Christ. And we do this by coming to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Satan likes to make this seem far more complex than it is. To feel as though everything is hopeless and there is no way out. But there is nothing more we can do. No work will save us. However, by walking in teshuvah and accepting God’s correction and grace we can move forward to His joy and happiness, which is beyond our mortal comprehension.
“Deliver others from misfortune and affliction and destruction, yea from the fire and burden of sin.” -Book of Remembrance 17:33