For many people, holy is not as welcoming a word as love. Perhaps the one time of year many Jewish people think of God as holy is on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days. On those occasions, we traditionally reflect on how God is morally perfect, while we recite a list of the many sins we have committed in the course of the year and ask for forgiveness. But we don’t need to wait for Yom Kippur to reflect on sin.
So what is sin? More than just individual acts, the Bible describes the nature of humanity as having a “heart defect.” There is a brokenness in human nature that is described by the Bible in this way:
The Lord looks down from heaven
on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside;
together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2–3, ESV)
There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20, NIV)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2, NIV)
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)
This theme is reiterated in the New Testament;
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, NIV)
These vivid descriptions point to how our spoiled nature harms our relationship with God, as well as with each other. There is a deep human need that God addresses. Even if we aren’t sure that God is there, or if He even cares about us, most of us know that we are not the loving, altruistic, servant-hearted person who can make the world a better place—even if we want to be that person! And it’s not just a matter of how we feel about ourselves, but the fact that we are broken and cannot live up to godliness in our own strength or effort—no matter how hard we try or how religious we might try to be.
The greatest gift given to humanity by God is the right to choose for or against Him. And He did that with absolute knowledge that we could use that freedom to choose not to trust or follow Him. But He warned that the natural consequence of exercising that freedom is separation from Him and spiritual death (Genesis 2:17), “you will surely die.”
So God offers us an abundant life, yet our sin keeps us from knowing God and the life He offers. Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story!