Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
You may have seen the commercial on TV that seems to run year after year. It advertises a medical alert system allowing a person who lives at home alone to push a button on a device around his or her neck signaling that he or she is in need of medical attention. It was made famous by the phrase, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
I can’t help but think of this statement when I read this passage of Scripture. The apostle Paul is describing the human race as fallen in sin and without hope of pulling itself up to acceptance with God. We are all in need of a spiritual rescue. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Now what in the world does this word “sin” mean? It sounds like something we’ve heard of before, but have you and I really sinned? How would we define the word “sin”? It comes from “hamartia” in the original manuscripts, meaning “to miss the mark”. Anything that displeases God, anything that contradicts his nature, rebels against his authority, anything that misses his mark of perfection is sin.
But what makes an action “right” or “wrong”? Who has the authority to judge between good and evil? These questions will naturally flow from any discussion of missing a mark or of a need for a spiritual rescue. Some people feel that right and wrong are simply societal constructs designed to preserve the power of the government or the ruling class. Others may feel that right and wrong are simply based upon what makes us feel good or bad emotionally or what the “majority” rules them to be. A few may actually believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. One way to press the issue is to find an extreme case. In other words, if a person believes that right and wrong are simply societal constructs, how can we absolutely condemn the actions of a serial killer like Dennis Rader or Jeffrey Dahmer? Is there a setting in which such behavior would be acceptable? Is genocide acceptable as long as the ruling government condones it? Is it okay if every government in the world favors genocide or turned a blind eye? If not, then why not?
If right and wrong are purely individual concepts, based on conscience and personal preference, then what are the ramifications of such a viewpoint? Is it wrong for one person to indulge his sexual desire by raping another, simply because it makes the offender feel good? Why or why not? On what basis can we call a sociopath’s version of morality incorrect if there is no absolute standard?
One problem with sin is that, if we admit it exists, then we have to define its boundaries. Once we acknowledge that absolute morals exist, known as sin and conversely, holiness or moral perfection, we must tip our hats to a moral law giver outside of our own human race. No human could set a standard by which we could judge all other humans. Only a being of moral perfection could stand in judgement of those who were not morally perfect. Furthermore, once we acknowledge this person exists, we would be foolish not to then seek out as much information as possible about this individual and to determine whether we have “missed” any of his “marks”.
This is the logical progression that we as Christ followers have employed to help us judge our own lives and strive to obtain the upmost morality. We do this for a couple of reasons. First, we want to stay out of trouble with this morally perfect being. We assume that since he is good enough to establish a code of conduct for all of the human race that he is also powerful enough to enforce this code. Our senses lend themselves to this rational as we observe the rhyme of the solar system, the rhythm of the beating heart and the complexity of all things around us. Only a very powerful individual would be responsible for such a universe. However, this trail of thinking leads us to unpleasant surroundings. We either choose to progress down this pathway to the natural result known as “conviction of sin”, the realization that we have offended this perfect law giver and deserve his anger; or, we peek around the proverbial corner to see where the trail is leading and then choose to run in another direction.
There is an element of cowardice in all of us when it comes to our own depravity, but for those who choose to see their own evil and confront it with sorrow and remorse, there is hope in the forgiveness that Christ provided by his death on that cross outside Jerusalem almost two millennia ago. For those who reject the mirror of truth and turn away into their own debauchery, they beg the question, “Is there not a reckoning day?” The patriarch Abraham said it most effectively, “shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”