Issues of Sin
Helping a non-believing student understand sin is perhaps the crux issue of sharing the Gospel. Students are in a place in life where, on most university campuses, every destructive behavior is not only available, but also encouraged. If you couple the availability of sinful behaviors with the teaching coming from many professors that such behaviors are right if you choose to believe they are right, you have an environment in which students can become very hardened to sin.
Today’s culture teaches that there are no moral absolutes. This is strictly the opposite of what the Bible teaches about sin. The Bible says that all men sin, and that any sin separates us from God. Thus, all of us are separated from God in our natural condition. Only Christ can remedy the problem of sin. Through his sacrifice we are reconciled to God through the forgiveness of those sins.
The Definition of Sin – Once again, we should never assume that a person we are speaking with has the same definitions for the words we use as we do. The word ‘sin’ is no different. If you ask someone to define sin, most will say that it is the ‘bad things we do’. This is only partially correct, however, and we should make it a priority to help that person understand the full and accurate meaning.
Sin is in fact more than the ‘bad things we do’. Sin also encompasses the things that we don’t do that we should do, as well as things we may do that we think are right but are in fact wrong. But even with these additions, the definition of sin, if left as it is here, is incomplete.
Sin as a concept actually originated in the sport of archery. Any arrow that did not hit the bulls-eye was called ‘sin’. It did not matter of the arrow missed by a lot or a little, or even if it missed the whole target altogether! That arrow which was not fired perfectly was called ‘sin’.
It is imperative to help a non-believer understand that sin is not just our action or inaction; rather, it is more accurately our inability to ‘hit the bulls-eye’, or to live up to the standard of God’s holiness. Ask them if in life they have ever ‘fired a shot’ that did not hit the mark. Maybe they hurt someone unintentionally, or caused trouble where they didn’t even mean to cause trouble. Almost everyone will acknowledge that even on a human scale they don’t always live up to the standard. Hopefully you can help them see that they certainly don’t live up to God’s standard.
At this point, share with them Romans 3:23 – “…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Ask them who ‘all’ refers to. Make sure they understand that ‘all’ refers to them, and you, and anyone else. Ask what they think about this. Do they agree or disagree?
Sometimes a person will mention someone they think has in fact lived up to God’s glory. Usually they will mention Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. Ask them why they think such a thing. Then ask the person when the person used in their example attained that kind of holiness, and how. Ask them if that person was sinless before their great acts, and if not, what about their sin early in life? A great shortcoming of the enlightenment worldview is that even if someone theoretically could attain enlightenment later in life, who pays for their sins up until they became enlightened? It makes for a good discussion at this point in the Gospel if it comes up.
All of us have a sense that life is not as it should be. Things don’t work out as we hope they would; hardships happen to all of us; other people let us down. All of these things are evidence of the sinfulness of man. This is in fact why most people do not experience abundance in life, as mentioned in John 10:10. Sin separates man from God and obscures that abundance. Help the person you’re speaking with to see sin as a hindrance to the fulfillment of God’s purpose in their life.
Follow up this discussion by asking them if they had ever heard sin spoken of in this manner, and what the think about it.