We often reduce sin to what we do or don’t do; for example, lie, steal, or cheat.
Let me be clear: sin is what we do or don’t do. But sin is much deeper. Sin is who we are. We commit acts of sin because we are sinners.
The famous fifth-century pastor in North Africa, Augustine, understood this well. In his Confessions, he recounts of how he stole some pears when he was sixteen. Listen to what he says:
“I had a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled to it by neither hunger nor poverty, but through contempt for well-doing and a strong impulse to iniquity. . . . I did not desire to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself. . . . Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart—which you did pity even in that bottomless pit. . . . I was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error—not that for which I erred but the error itself.”
As Augustine learned contra the Pelagians, the problem with reducing sin to acts of disobedience is that it domesticates Jesus—it makes Jesus a puny, pathetic Savior. Thus, when we reduce sin to what we do and don’t do, it makes Jesus small because sin is small. But if sin is deep and large, then we see a large, mind-blowing Savior. And that is what he is. Jesus is a large, mind-blowing Savior.
I am convinced that if we have a light, small, trifle view of sin, we have a small and pathetic Savior. But if sin is more awful than we can think or comprehend, then we have a Savior who is more awesome that we can think or comprehend. Only when sin runs deep, does grace run deeper still. As a modern hymn puts it: “Where sin runs deep, your grace is more . . .”
So, let’s not make Jesus small in our eyes by reducing our sin solely to acts of disobedience. Let’s remember that sin is fundamentally at the core of our being. Our sin is not only in acts, but in thoughts, desires, feelings, and motivations.
And when we see our sin—even the sins committed today—as big, Jesus is bigger!
More on this theme of seeing sin as deep and grace as deeper, see the sermon here “A Gospel Testimony”