If we want to understand the world we live in, we can’t afford to ignore the concept of sin. Sin is an unpopular, old fashioned and much abused term. It conjures up an image of God as a grumpy, bearded old man in a white nighty sitting up in heaven looking for thunderbolts so he can randomly ‘smite’ people. But we have to understand sin in terms of relationships; the relationship between the creator and the creation he loves. Put simply, sin is created humanity doing and thinking things that are offensive to the creator God.

If sin is doing things that are offensive to our creator, we should expect that sin will be the antithesis of the nature of God – and when we look at it we find that this is very often the case. God is a God of relationships, and sin is about treating God and others badly. This is obvious in cases such as murder and stealing, which clearly cause harm to others, rather than bringing unity. Pornography turns another person into an object for your own satisfaction; selfishness puts you at the centre of the universe and so it goes on. At its root, sin reinforces the three-way breakdown in harmony between God, humanity and nature, that came in with the fall.

There is one other thing to be said about sin, and this one is not very popular. The Bible teaches quite plainly that all sin has to be punished. Our society is very uneasy about the whole idea of punishment. It is seen as being archaic, right-wing and vindictive. We are told that our aim should be to rehabilitate people, not to punish them. Interestingly, even those most opposed to the concept of punishment agree that some people deserve to be punished: Hitler, paedophiles, perhaps rapists and murderers. It isn’t clear where the bar should be set, but clearly there has to be a cut off point which says who should and shouldn’t be punished. The Bible actually agrees with this concept, but it says that the bar should be set according to God’s standards, not ours. It is the creator who has the right to set the standards for what is right and wrong. We may find his standards hard to understand at times, but if we acknowledge the existence of a creator God, then we also have to admit that he understands the way things work better than we do. So, unpopular and uncomfortable though it may be, God’s verdict is that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).

Because of the fall, we find ourselves in a situation where the world is broken, suffering and pain are part of our daily existence and we are in rebellion against our creator. Everything has gone wrong, even the creation itself is groaning as it waits for things to be fixed.

Thankfully, creation will not groan forever: “he made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

There is no significance in the choice of the picture for this blog post. I have no inside information that indicates that Asian kingfishers are especially sinful.