I don’t subscribe to any religion, but I do appreciate teachings from ancient religious texts.
“Sin” is often (due to misuse) a highly charged word that can evoke harmful emotions like anger, fear, shame, etc., but I don’t feel that the term itself deserves such a connotation. I use the term “sin” simply as a tool of awareness, and only in regard to my own life.
In both the ancient Greek and Hebrew of the bible (Old Testament and New Testament), the term used was one also used in archery, meaning “to miss” (the target). And by inference, to forfeit the prize.
There is a Latin preposition “sine” that means without. The Spanish word “sin” also means without. While English etymologists generally don’t make a link between the English word “sin” and the Latin “sine”, there are Spanish etymologists that do make the link between the Spanish word “sin” and the Latin “sine”.
The Spanish version makes more sense to me since the word “sin” in the bible is translated from Greek and Hebrew words that mean to “miss the mark/target”. In archery, if your arrow doesn’t land within the target, it lands “without“.
When the Greek and Hebrew terms were used in a religious context, it was done metaphorically. One can easily see the metaphor: The “target” is Love. Love is good, i.e. beneficial, kind, generous, patient, forgiving, compassionate, thoughtful, honest, humble, sincere, caring, etc.
To “sin” (to “miss the mark”) is to be unloving, i.e. dishonest, harmful, selfish, greedy, impatient, unforgiving, arrogant, pretentious, cold, uncaring, etc.
So it makes sense that the English word “sin” would come to be defined by words such as “misdeed”, “moral wrongdoing”, “injury”, “mischief” and “enmity”. If one is engaging in this kind of behavior, they are “missing the mark of love”, and by extension, not receiving the “reward”.
I believe in this concept. I believe that thoughts, feelings, intentions and deeds rooted in Love and in Loving qualities bring rewards, while an unloving approach results in suffering.
I see it happening in my own life. When I feel impatient, I also feel angry and unpleasant and I lack peace. When I feel patient, I feel pleasant, loving and peaceful. When I feel greedy, I also feel tense and controlling. When I don’t feel greedy, I feel relaxed as if everything is fine. If I ridicule or condemn someone, I feel like an asshole. If I try to justify the action, I feel equally as bad but I blame the other person for how I feel rather than acknowledging the true cause. However, if I treat others with respect and compassion, I possess the peace that accompanies doing the right thing.
When I find myself feeling something like anger or impatience, and perhaps even desire to hurt someone with a cutting remark, the concept of “sin” helps me to become aware that I’m “without” Love in that moment. I’m missing the target…I’m forfeiting the prize.
The same is true if I’m harshly critical toward myself or when I feel inferior. I’m not Loving myself because I’m not having respect, kindness, patience or compassion toward myself. I find that the consequence is the same whether the harm is directed at myself or someone else. Or maybe a little worse when it’s toward someone else, but it is still pretty much the same feeling.
It’s not really about reward and punishment for me. I believe that Love is a natural law, one that produces in kind. Loving intent produces fulfillment, unloving intent produces discontent. The former brings calm, the latter brings stress.
There is so much more to say on the subject. Love is everything, and the current state of our world is evidence that there is not enough of it.
Photo: at Lake Easton State Park in the state of Washington, summer of 2019 by me.