Explaining sin is easy, isn’t it? Well actually it isn’t! I find myself continually having to explain to people that I am not judging them. The truth is, we are all sinners, and God is the Judge.
A Muslim once asked me, “What do I need to be saved from?” I’ve been asked the same question by Jewish people. To which I reply, “We have all sinned, and defied a holy God. We need to be saved from our sin and the judgment it brings. The good news is, God wants to be your Saviour. All you have to do is confess your sins, repent and say yes to Jesus.” But repentance isn’t easy. It’s letting go of living the way we want, and allowing ourselves to be directed by God.
Many people don’t see themselves as sinners because they haven’t committed a crime. They don’t know that sin is falling short of God’s standards, not just the standards we humans set for ourselves. We tend to judge ourselves by whether we are better or worse than other people. But a friend described it like this: We’ve all taken an exam, and we all failed. Some get 49% and others get 1%, but even the higher scores do not pass. However good or bad we are compared to one another—in the end we are all still sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Imagine you rent out your house, and your tenants never pay you. They tear the house apart and use your property for purposes that break the terms by which you allowed them to live there. That’s how we can look at sin. We are all tenants in a world created and owned by God, but we behave as though we owe God nothing. We don’t give the reverence and obedience that is due Him. God has every right to cut us off, throw us out—but He paid what was due by sending His son, Yeshua, to live a perfect life, and then take the penalty for our sin.
Sin is an important topic. I got in touch with a contact called Matt, and learned that two women had prayed with him a year ago to receive Jesus. I asked what the prayer meant. He could not answer. “Did these women talk to you about sin?” He said that they didn’t. Whether they did and he forgot I don’t know. But when witnessing to others, it’s essential to have a sin conversation. If we don’t, we may well be inoculating people against the gospel—as they mistakenly think they understand it, when actually a huge part of the story is missing.
Another man prayed to receive Jesus during our Wimbledon outreach, but when Julia Pascoe talked with him several months later, it was evident that he knew nothing of sin. This is often the case for Jewish people coming to Jesus. They understand that He is the Messiah, but can’t seem to grasp that He is also the Judge of sin as well as the atonement for sin. Many don’t really understand what sin is, and that’s why they don’t see their need to be saved from it. Sometimes it can take a while for their eyes to be opened. One Jewish believer said that after inviting Jesus into her heart, it took another three years before she realized Jesus is Lord and Judge. We must be patient with people. At the same time, we must do our best to explain, not only who Jesus is, but why we all need Him.