I recently listened to the guys from CrossPolitic converse with Greg Johnson, the pastor of the PCA church hosting the Revoice conference. I appreciated how hard they worked to convey a different perspective to their guest. As I listened, however, it became apparent that the fundamental difference dividing their thinking from that of their guest was the definition of sin. I think the CrossPolitics guys recognized this as well, but I would like to suggest that our definition needs to take one more step.
Yes, sin is missing the mark. Yes, sin is lawlessness, but I think more important today is the realization that sin is anything less than the glory of God. That mark of complete impossibility is what we must repent of. The law is a detailed explication of what the glory of God looks like in action; a description of the character of God in all its glory.
Pastor Johnson is struggling with the idea of asking folks to repent of something non-volitional (and there is much more that should be said on that topic), but if sin is understood biblically, we must all be repenting of falling short of the glory of God, not just of willful sins, but of the state of being a corrupted image.
Only then can we fully embrace the need to turn our hearts (and our feet, our lips, our eyes, etc.) away from anything but the glory of God, that consuming light where some sweet day we will once again be able to discern nothing detailed about the other except their being robed in the glory of God (and therefore be unashamed). O to no longer regard each other according to the flesh!
I love the Anglican confession that contains these three descriptors, reminding us that we “have sinned…through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.”1 Too often these days, we recognize only “deliberate” sins as sin, and while it is easy to agree that we were “conceived and born in iniquity and corruption” (to quote Calvin’s liturgy2), I suspect it puts the proper point on it to recognize and acknowledge that sin is falling short of the glory of God. Which of us Pharisees has the hubris to think we’ve met that standard?
Though I would set myself up for constant disappointment, I would like to hope that I never again hear that tired question/challenge: “Are you saying that _______ is a sin?” Yes, yes, I am; we are literally wallowing in sinfulness, and the Lord loves a broken spirit and a contrite heart; a heart that spends so much time gazing upon Christ that it realizes ever more fully how far short it falls, and therefore glories in the chesed (חֶסֶד )in which we move without condemnation, a heart that clings to the Father who knows our frame and remembers that we are but inglorious dust.