Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.
1 John 3:4 NLT
Unlike their neighbors, the Israelites knew that fellowship with God depended on how well they followed his instructions. Thus, they had nearly a dozen terms to express the various aspects of failure to do that. But there are three that occur most frequently. They are: first, “sin”; second, the now-archaic “iniquity”; and third “transgression.” I want to talk about each of these in three successive devotions.
The word translated “sin” (Heb. hatta) is the most frequent and the most general. The original idea of the word was “to miss a target.” The corresponding Greek term (hamartia) has the same origin. “Sin” can refer to intentional thoughts, motives, and actions as well as unintentional ones. It refers to any deviation from God’s wishes, expectations, and norms.
It is one of the great errors of word study to assume that every use of a word carries with it the original idea, and I do not want to suggest that when I think with you about “sin.” However, that idea still offers a useful visual aid when we try to understand the nature of sin.
So what is it to sin? It is to miss God’s target for your life, whether intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, one of God’s targets is for me to be exclusively faithful to my wife, and adultery, whether it is the result of seduction or intention, is to miss that target. The result is that the arrow of my life goes off somewhere into the weeds, losing its purpose, direction, and ultimately, even its value. Here’s the point: Yahweh has a very specific pattern for human life; accept that pattern, aim at it, train your spiritual muscles, practice hitting it and keep practicing hitting it, and you will have fellowship with God. Choose some other target, or just let your muscles get flabby so that even if you might like to hit God’s target, you can’t, and God is not going to be there. Don’t miss the target!