Sin is...
Off the Wall, May 8
, 2014

Since we are still in the Easter season and will be until June, I thought I’d talk a little bit today about sin. After all, Jesus Christ died on the cross so as to free us from our sinfulness. But unless we really understand what sin really is, we cannot truly grasp the importance of Easter and its significance as a whole.

Any time a word is in question as to its meaning, the dictionary is the first place reference is made for clarification. Turning to the Funk & Wagnall’s Dictionary, it states, sin is ‘A lack of conformity to, or, a transgression, especially when deliberate of a law, precept or principle as having divine authority. The state or condition of having thus transgressed: wickedness; any fault or error; an offense against a standard.’

Defined, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), sin is ‘An offense against God as well as fault against reason, truth and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the external law of God.’

Making the decision to dig into Catholic theology a little deeper, I found a chapter in the CCC under Article 8 titled ‘Sin.’ Under the subtitle of ‘The Definition of Sin,’ it is written, ‘It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law. (1849).”

But it didn’t stop there. ‘Sin is an offense against God: Against you, you alone, and done that which is evil in your sight.’ Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God. In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation ( 1850).’

In posing the question to a ‘man of the cloth,’ as to exactly what sin is, he stated, “A premeditated wrong against God.” This statement was in keeping with the CCC. Can one simply conclude that all sin is thought about before committing?

A majority of sins are acted upon as ‘planned before carried out.’ In other words, even though it may only require seconds, one may act as a result of a stimulus which results in a response, that being sin. Some exceptions are acts committed by the mentally ill or those with physical impediments that have no control of their being unless given medication.

The Letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5:19-21 states, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness (lewdness), 20 idolatry, sorcery (witchcraft), hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In the Roman Catholic Church, there are two types of sins, mortal and venial. Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. ‘Mortal sin is a grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life in the soul of the sinner, constituting a turning away from God. It implies a complete consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice (CCC 1859). For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present; grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will (CCC 1857).’

A venial sin does not destroy the divine life in the soul as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it. Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent (CCC Glossary).

Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments (CCC 1858). For one to commit a mortal sin, he must have ‘feigned ignorance and hardness of heart, which does not diminish, but increases which is the voluntary character of the sin (CCC 1859).’

Thus in most cases, sin is a result of personal choice, premeditated acts that carried out. We can’t thank Jesus Christ enough for dying on that cross for us, for we now have the opportunity to call upon His name seeking and then granting forgiveness for our sins.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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