We are taught that sin is “missing the mark.” And we are taught to turn away from sin (or die to sin) and live for God. But how do you turn away from something, when you don’t know what to turn away from? What is the mark we miss?
What is the Mark?
I grew up in a church which taught that the mark was perfection—the perfection of God Himself.
Paul says we fall short of the glory of God1. What is the glory of God?
Many people teach that the glory of God is God’s perfect goodness, so falling short of His glory, they say, is the same as falling short of His perfection.
Paul also states that sin is lawlessness2, so the mark then, would be the perfect obedience to the Law, right?
Paul also tells us that the Law was given as a tutor3—teaching … what?
And if, in Christ, we are no longer under the law3, how do we know how to live? What is the standard?
And how is it that outside of Jesus, we are slaves to sin4, but in Christ Jesus, we are the righteousness of God5? What makes the difference?
What is God’s perfect standard?
If righteousness is something you are—you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus5— then could it follow that sin is more about what you aren’t, than what you do?
The teaching that we are to be perfect, comes from Jesus Sermon on the mount: “Therefore, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”6 The Greek word translated as ‘perfect’, means ‘complete’ or ‘mature’7.
Read Jesus’ instruction, in it’s context, below. Read it, through the frame of ‘perfection’ meaning ‘complete’, and as you do, see if your understanding shifts a bit.
“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be [complete], as your heavenly Father is [complete].”Jesus (Matthew 5:44-48 NASB 1995—Brackets and emphasis mine)
What is the glory of God?
Glory means praise, honour, splendour, brightness, excellence . The Glory of God is the totality of all that He is. So how do we fall short of His glory?
In Genesis, we are told that God created us in His image and likeness, to rule over His creation8. So God created us as His representatives on earth, not so? So do we fall short of His glory, when our lives contradict who He is?
What is Lawlessness?
The religious leaders once asked Jesus to identify the most important Law. He answered them from the Law, saying: “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might9.”
Then He added, “… you shall love your neighbour as yourself10”, once again, quoting from the Mosaic Law. Then He adds: “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets”11.
The Greek Word translated as ‘depend’, literally means to ‘hang from’12. So the whole Law and the Prophets ‘hang from’ the laws of love, right?
So could we then say, that lawlessness is lovelessness?
The Righteousness of God
John says God is love.13 What does this mean? Everything He is and everything He does, flows from and through His love—even His wrath.
As we have seen above, God created us in His image and likeness8. So, if He created us in His likeness, and He is love, does this not mean that He created us in the likeness of His love?
If we have been created in God’s likeness, then does it not follow that we would be perfect (complete) when we live as we were created to live—fully expressing every aspect of our nature though God’s love— a robust, relentless, reliable, love that always desires what’s best for all14—in every situation, even towards our enemies?
Anything less, falls short of the mark.
And this mark of love is not impossibly high for us who are in Christ, for Paul tells us that God pours His love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit15. Jesus also tells us that our love is our mark of distinction16. His love forms part of the fabric of our new nature in Christ Jesus.
So, what I wish I had been taught, right from the start, is that sin is everything that falls short of the pure love of God.
Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus.Mother Teresa
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.Paul (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
1. Romans 3: 23
2. 1 John 3:4
3. Galatians 3:23-25
4. John 8:34
5. 2 Corinthians 5:21
6. Matthew 5:48
7. Strongs New Testament #4137
8. Genesis 1:26-27
9. Deuteronomy 6:5
10. Leviticus 19:18
11. Matthew 22:40
12. Strongs New Testament #2910
13. 1 John 4:8
14. 1 Corinthians 13:5-8
15. Romans 5:5
16. John 13:35
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