Last month I asked this question, "What is sin?" And in answering it I focused on sin as a thing. Something a person does or does not do. I have been thinking more on the topic of sin due to some of my reading. What if sin is not a thing but a relationship?
What I mean is that we often think of sin as some impersonal thing that attaches itself to us. We "do" a sin. But what if sin isn't something we do, necessarily, but some relationship we do or do not have.
I guess this comes up because we often struggle to answer exactly why something (an action) is sin for one person and not sin for another. I think the answer is found in relationship.
Why is drinking alcohol a sin for one person, but not for another? Because for the alcoholic, drinking separates them from their healthy relationships. It destroys their families. It anesthetizes them to life. It is their obsession and their God. But for some, drinking a beer is just like drinking a coke; they do it once in a while. I think that is why the Bible says that getting drunk is a sin--because once a persons is impaired they no longer have complete control over what they say and do.
Why is lust, adultery, and pre-marital sex a sin? (This is an example of how an action is sinful in one instance but not in another.) Because it turns a person into an object for the selfish pleasure of another. Pre-marital sex is wrong, not just because it is against God's design, but because without commitment, true love is hindered. Yes, there are people who "love" each other and have sex before marriage, but without commitment there is still a lack of trust and complete honesty. The commitment to marriage is a commitment to the relationship no matter what happens.
This brings up divorce. Do we even have to ask why divorce would be a sin based on the relational aspect of sin? Look at all the damage it does to the family and the children. One professor of mine said, "Divorce is the gift that keeps on giving." But this does point back to the last paragraph, and begs the question, "The commitment to marriage really means nothing." I think this is often a result of sin (again relational) interferring in the marriage relationship and driving the couple apart. Or, the couple enters the marriage for selfish reason and then leaves for equally selfish reasons.
There is much more that could be said concerning sin as a relational reality. For instance the doctrine of Original Sin. Theologian have wrestled with how Jesus, while born to a human mother, could be born without original sin. The answer is simple: Sin is relational. Because Jesus was born connected to the Father, there was no Original Separation. Maybe that is the direction we should go. It should not be Original Sin, but rather Original Separation.