What is sin?

Pastor Matthew Best
3 min readJan 23, 2020

Martin Luther defined sin as the turning in on oneself. I like this definition and description. It’s pretty accurate. When we turn in on ourselves, we turn away from others, and more importantly, away from God. When we turn in on ourselves, we are acting in a narcissistic manner — making ourselves into a god, where all of our focus and attention turns. It’s about me, what I want, what I desire, what pleases me, etc.

In this sense, sin is the antithesis of the two great commandments — to love God and to love our neighbor. We can’t do either when we turn in on ourselves.

I think there are other ways of defining sin too that are helpful. I have heard sin defined as broken relationships. Sin is a broken relationship with God and with others. In a sense, it is also a broken relationship with ourselves. Again, the care and concern of anything outside of ourselves is broken. Trust is broken. Faith is broken. And it can’t be re-established until things change.

Another way to define sin is to talk about vision — as in sight. Sin is the clouding of our vision. Our vision is clouded so that we can’t see what is actually best for ourselves and others. Sin is a distortion of vision that prevents us from seeing the reality of truth. Sin is like a pair of eyeglasses that are not your prescription. You can see elements of what is there, but you can’t see clearly. The blurrier the vision, the more anxiety and fear enter us as we become concerned for our safety. People become blurred — we don’t recognize them and if the blurring is bad enough, we may not even recognize that we are seeing a person.

Sin distorts our view of the Imago Dei of the other — the Image of God. It blinds us from seeing the image of God in another person. This is brokenness in relationship. It is turning inward on oneself.

Original sin is the concept that we are born in a state of sin, through no fault of our own. This original sin blinds us from seeing what the goodness of God is fully. Only with God’s action, are we able to respond.

In a sense, original sin is like color blindness. I am color blind. I have never seen what some colors are supposed to be, unlike people with “normal” vision. So if I have never seen what normal is, how am I supposed to pick out the proper color. I can’t do it — I have no idea what to look for on my own. It is only when I receive help or direction that I am able to even have the option of choosing the right color. God’s grace works like this when it comes to original sin.

Sin is not a popular topic right now. But it is important. Too often sin masquerades as something that it is not. Sin dresses up as something good, when it isn’t. It delights in fooling people. Sin is never satisfied.

And thankfully God never stops — never stops pursuing us, transforming us, and giving us sight to see sin for what it is. God never stops forgiving us when we sin too. Sinners sin. That’s what we do. It’s a part of our nature. And God loves. That’s a part of God’s nature.

Originally published at http://laceduplutheran.com on January 23, 2020.



Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.