You’ve heard the questions. You’ve probably asked them yourself. “Is it a sin to drink alcohol?” “How far can I go with my boyfriend (girlfriend) sexually before it becomes sin?” “If I get a divorce, am I sinning?” Our human nature sometimes struggles to know if something is right or wrong.
When I was a tween I went through a period of being overwhelmingly concerned about my standing with God. Every night I’d religiously write down every wrong thing I had done so I wouldn’t forget to ask God or others for forgiveness. I kept a notepad hidden near my bed, and would cross off a “sin” once I had appropriately humbled myself before God or anyone else involved.
I’ve grown up a lot since then. It’s not that I’m any less committed to seeking forgiveness when I do something wrong, but I have a much deeper understanding of what God is after. And frankly, His “list” is a lot longer than mine!
But God’s list has much more to do with matters of the heart than it does with outward behavior.
Sin in the Bible
Religious people and institutions have a tendency to come up with lists of outward behaviors that you’re supposed to do and not do. The Jews in the Old Testament were very good at that, and God did not look kindly on that behavior: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).