Missing the Mark
MANY people in modern society regard belief in sin as out of date and the consciousness of it as being bad for one’s mental health. This view tends to remove moral restraint, with the result that public morality deteriorates. Commenting on how Freudian psychology has contributed to this demoralizing view, Psychologist O. Hobart Mowrer, a past president of the American Psychological Association, stated:
“For half a century now we psychologists have very largely followed the Freudian doctrine that . . . the patient has been in effect too good; that he has within him impulses, especially those of lust and hostility, which he has been unnecessarily inhibiting. And health, we tell him, lies in expressing these impulses.” By trying to destroy consciousness of sin, psychologists have, according to Dr. Mowrer, also abolished moral restraint, with the result that personality disorders have become more widespread and baffling.
Notwithstanding the denials of worldlywise people, sin is a reality that cannot be lightly dismissed. Much more is involved than the breaking of moral laws. It damages a person’s relationship with his Creator, because sin has to do with the violating of divine laws. The Greek word for it is hamartía, which carries the thought of missing, as missing one’s road, to fail of doing something, to miss one’s point or to go wrong. The Hebrew word for sin has a similar thought. Jehovah God has set up a standard of righteousness for his creatures as a mark of perfection. Missing or failing to meet this mark is called sin. It can be of two types—inherited sin and sin that we personally commit.
Inherited sin is responsible for the imperfect way that our bodies function and for the death that automatically comes to everyone. Speaking about it, God’s Word says: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) That one man, Adam, was the common ancestor of all humans. By his willfully missing the mark of perfect obedience to God he sinned and brought himself into an imperfect condition. His children, being brought forth in that condition, inherited his imperfection resulting from his sin. Thus none of his descendants have been born without the effects of his sin.
The other type of sin is the result of our personal failures in reaching the mark God has set, his standard of righteousness. Being imperfect, we are unable to reach that mark, but we can aim at it and try to come as near as possible to it by obeying the laws of God. Such efforts show our love for righteousness. With a sincere desire to do what is right in Jehovah’s eyes, we will feel cut to the heart when we violate any of his laws. We will repent of what we did, pray earnestly for forgiveness and not repeat the sin. God will cover our sin by means of Christ’s ransom sacrifice and not hold it against us. Because of our repentant attitude he will forgive us.
Jehovah’s forgiveness is not extended, however, to the person who makes sin a regular part of his life and thus practices it. Such a person has no inclination or desire to strive for the mark God has set. He willfully violates God’s laws, showing no love for righteousness and feeling no remorse for his sins. His conscience becomes seared and insensitive to the wrongness of his ways in the eyes of God. Regarding such a lawless person, the Bible states: “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness, and so sin is lawlessness. He who carries on sin originates with the Devil, because the Devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:4, 8) From the beginning of his sinful course, the wicked spirit creature known as the Devil has violated willfully the laws of God. He apparently has stifled any sense of guilt and advocates as desirable what God declares to be sin. Willful sinners manifest his attitude.
God cannot be expected to forgive the sins of a person who refuses to be conscious of sin and who does not seek his forgiveness. It is nothing more than self-deception to deny the existence of sin. Because a person refuses to recognize God’s laws, that does not make them nonexistent; that does not make one guiltless when one violates them. As human judges will not judge a person innocent because he refuses to recognize the laws he violates, neither does God judge him innocent for violating divine laws. It is written: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:8, 9.
Forgiveness is extended to the person who acknowledges his sin and repentantly confesses his sin to God, asking for forgiveness. Such a person manifests the correct attitude toward the obeying of divine laws. Because he manifests the right heart attitude his sin is not one that leads to his extinction. Even though he may die a “natural” death because of inherited sin from Adam, he has the hope of a resurrection. But that cannot be said of the man who is lawless with respect to God’s laws and has the Devil’s attitude toward sin. Because he feels no guilt for breaking divine laws, he is not repentant and makes no effort to seek forgiveness. The practice of sin has seared his conscience so that he has become hardened in wrongdoing. The memory of such a person is not retained by God. “The remembrance of the righteous one is due for a blessing, but the very name of the wicked ones will rot.”—Prov. 10:7.
Whether it be Freudian psychology or some other demoralizing line of thinking that breaks down moral restraint, there is grave danger in giving heed to it. It is the way of sin and death, not the way of life. “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Gal. 6:7.