In the interests of full disclosure, you should know that the first 8 comments were made when only the title was posted. I also wrote this piece prior to those comments. If you can keep that time line straight in your head, you’re probably also a good juggler or a successful executive administrator.
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But when I say they should stop using a word, I don’t mean that the concept is dead or never existed or is incorrect; I just mean that the word no longer seems to fit, mostly due to the changing culture and how we now view that word (in English).
The first word I would like to annihilate is the word “sin”. Dear church, please don’t use that word anymore.
On Friday I jumped on Twitter and asked the Twitterverse what their first thought was when I said the word “sin”:
@BrandonSneed said vuvuzela. Hard to argue with that.
@XCcampbell said “Muzac remakes of classic rock songs.” I have no idea what that is.
@LadyCrow said “Yum! Perfume.” This says more about how marketing departments have harnessed our natural inclination towards the “verboten” than it does the church’s use of the word, but still a fascinating response that probably deserves an entire post unto itself.
Here are some other responses I got: Separation; Hurt; Painful; Offense; Crime; Violation. And these all make sense, to a certain degree. I was beginning to wonder if maybe folks did have a good handle on the meaning of sin. Maybe it’s not lost it’s meaning. But then I got this response:
And a few others along those lines. That last association came from a self-proclaimed “outsider” and this is what I suspected. Sin has come to represent the list of things the church does not approve of, often a legalistic and man made list. “Outsiders” hear the term and feel that it represents all that the church finds repulsive in them, as people, yet they know that people in the church are violating this list of “sins” all the time.
But sin is so much more than just the breaking of a man made rule.
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
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So what did the original word for sin in the Bible, amartia in Greek, mean? One of the Greek definitions is “missing the mark.”
All have missed the mark.
Kind of hard to argue with that. This morning when I got frustrated at my child for throwing their cereal on the floor and yelled at them, I probably missed the mark (I don’t think the emotion is the “missing of the mark” as much as how we respond to that emotion). So if I got angry (not missing the mark) at someone for pulling out in front of me and I gave them the bird, I’ve missed the mark.
And even on the days I manage not to DO anything wrong, I’ve still had plenty of thoughts that have missed the mark. All day, every day.
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By eliminating the use of the word “sin”, I’m not trying to do away with the concept that we as humans screw up – in fact, it’s in our nature. I’m certainly not trying to downplay the seriousness of this “missing the mark,” how it can get our lives all knotted up and hurt us and the people around us. I just don’t think that “sin” is the best way to communicate the concept of “missing the mark” because most people outside the church think of an arbitrary list created by the church that basically forbids many things they consider fun.
Instead of using “sin”, why don’t we just talk about “missing the mark”? Instead of saying “sin”, why don’t we talk about the specifics? The word “sin” is like the word “postmodern”: it means too many different things to too many different people, and in the process has lost its true meaning.
Should the church keep using words if people no longer know what they really mean or understand them the way “insiders” do?
Are there other words you think the church should stop using?
Have I completely lost the plot?