Sin is an important word. If we don’t understand what sin is, then we really can’t understand the most important part of the Bible. God’s great big book is all about the good news that Jesus came to save us from sin. If you didn’t know what sin is and why you need to be saved from it, you might think, “Who cares about your good news?”
So what exactly is sin? 1 John 3:4 makes it pretty clear: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” Simply put, sin is breaking the law. It’s disobeying the rules. But when John tells us that sin is breaking the law, he’s not talking about the laws of your country or the rules of your school. John is talking about the law of God!
As our Creator, God is in charge of everything that he has made. The King of the Universe has the right to tell us how he wants us to live – after all, it’s his world we’re standing on and his air we’re breathing! All of his laws can be found in his perfect God-breathed Word: the Bible. There are many commands God has given us to obey, but all of them can be boiled down to just two rules. We have a special nickname for them: the two “Great Commandments.”
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus tells us these two Great Commandments. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” According to Jesus, all of the commands in God’s law are really about just two things: loving God with all our hearts and loving others like we love ourselves.
So let’s put together the two things we just learned. As John taught us, sin is breaking God’s law. It’s doing the opposite of what he commands us to do. What’s God’s law all about? Loving him and loving others. So now we have a pretty good definition of what sin is – it’s a failure to love! Sin is when we fail to love God with our whole hearts or fail to love other people like we love ourselves. And that failure to love shows itself in a lot of ugly ways: lying, cheating, stealing, complaining, killing, and more!