My friend Luke once said something about sin that stuck with me. He said, “sin is not a pair of pants.” It is an odd quote, but what he meant was that sin is not something you take off and put on. If you get a pair of pants dirty you throw them in the wash. It is a surface dirt that requires a surface cleaning. He was saying that sin is more comprehensive than that, more total. It is closer to a genetic condition than a clothing stain.
People’s idea of what sin is and what the kingdom of God is are tied together. If one is shabby the other will be shabbier. People often make the mistake of thinking that sin is the bullet point list of things that you are currently doing wrong, not a deep, total condition. On the flip side people seem to think of redemption as erasing a few points on the list of sins, not a restoration of the peace of life, or shalom.
Cornelius Plantinga, in his book “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be” expands our definitions of both. For instance, look at this quote, where he speaks of the true scope of redemption:
“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight, is what the Hebrew prophets call Shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its creator and savior opens the doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
Redemption is universal flourishing. Sin is universal decay. If shalom is wholeness, sin is partiality. If Shalom is delight and joy, then sin is what brings sadness and ruin into the world. Shalom is a flat piece of glass and sin is the fractures that occur when it is hit.
We don’t need new pants, we need to flourish.