Robbie Frederick is in Year 2 of the Send SFL Residency Program at Family Church.

Departing From God’s Design

Here at Family Church we are constantly having discussions regarding missional living. Over the last year, we have been intentional in teaching, training and equipping our congregation to be missionaries where they live, work and play. Part of that equipping process has been training them to share the gospel with those they know. While training them to share the gospel, we teach them to define sin as “departing from God’s design.” Sin seems to be one of those topics that all Christians understand, yet have a hard time articulating. In defining sin as “departing from God’s design,” we are helping our congregation simplify the communication of what sin is without robbing sin of the weight of its doctrine. Most evangelical churchgoers would affirm this definition, and few objections are raised against it by those outside the church. The definition is useless, however, if those who use it aren’t certain of what they mean. Let’s take a quick look at some of the meaning in “departing from God’s design.”

We Know And Choose Sin

In defining sin as “departing from God’s design,” we are implicitly stating several principles regarding sin. One of those principles is that God has a design for the world and everyone is responsible to obey. In order for us to “depart” from God’s design, we must have first either been a part of God’s design, or at least have known of His design. God had, and has, a design for the world (Gn 1:31). He created us to live in a perfect world with order and harmony where we would experience perfect fellowship with Him. This design, the Bible tells us, is intrinsically woven into our hearts (Rm 1:19-23). Often times when discussing sin with those who are far from God, I am asked something like, “Well, how can I be held responsible for doing wrong (departing from God’s design) when I didn’t even know it was wrong? I’ve never even read the Bible!” While that may be true, the Bible is clear that everyone instinctively knows the truths (or design) of God. Knowing this, we are able to say with confidence that all have departed from God’s design, because all knew His design before they chose their own way.

More Than Actions

Another principle this definition helps communicate is that sin is more than actions. Those far from God often view sin as a list of actions God wants us to avoid. Jesus confronted this mindset in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt 5:21-22, 27-28). He taught His listeners that sin can be more than actions; it can also be our thoughts or motives. Sin is anything we do that departs from God’s design. One of the reasons this is important to understand is because it helps prevent people from thinking they can earn salvation by acting a certain way. This is what the Pharisees thought whom Jesus often confronted. They felt they were living perfect lives because they followed every action of the Law. What they didn’t realize was that their wicked thoughts and motives still convicted them of sin.

Earning Death

Lastly, by defining sin as “departing from God’s design,” we are saying that we have left His design to find our own. As mentioned earlier, part of His design is that we live with (and for) Him. If life is part of His design, then to pursue the opposite of His design is to pursue death. The Bible openly explains that we earn death because of our sin (Rm. 6:23). We often struggle to understand how a just God could punish something as small as sin in such a horrific manner. We should, however, be viewing sin based on the punishment God has assigned to it. If we attest that God is perfectly just, and that He has commanded that sin be punished with death, separated from Him, then we must view that punishment as being perfectly just.

Sin’s Gravity

Sin is a vast doctrine that affects everything. Understanding the full gravity of sin could take a lifetime of study. We define sin in this simple way, however, to help equip our missionaries to easily share the truths of Christ. This then gives them the freedom to communicate sin in a manner however simple or complex they desire. Regardless of the complexity, one principle of sin that we always communicate is that departing from God’s design always leads us to brokenness.