I recall reading about someone trying to explain sin. No small task. Among his various illustrations and analogies was his saying that trying to separate sin from a sinner was similar to trying to separate a dance from a dancer.
I don’t know why, but that picture stayed in my mind. There is no sin in the abstract. There has to be someone disobeying the will of God, overtly or covertly, for there to be sin.
Further complicating things is how similar sin is from that which is not sin. Without even noticing it, eating can become gluttony; admiring can become lusting; caution becomes fear; praying becomes complaining, and concern can become worry. The lines are razor thin and invisible.
In his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C. S. Lewis describes just how close sinful pleasures are from their holy counterparts:
“But aren’t there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly there are. But in calling them ‘bad pleasures’ I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean ‘pleasures snatched by unlawful acts.’ It is the stealing of the apple that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory. That does not palliate the stealing. It makes it worse. There is sacrilege in the theft. We have abused a holy thing.”1
It may be that Lewis has, inadvertently, given us an accurate definition of sin. “We have abused a holy thing.”
“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” – Proverbs 9:17.
- C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012), 89.