One very important way of understanding sin is that sin is rebellion against God’s law. It’s not doing what he requires of us, not living as he has called us to live, and, therefore, never fully being who God created us to be. Sin is living without reference to God, not viewing him to be the defining reality of our lives around which our entire lives need to be centered. And when we don’t live as if God is who he is, we violate his law and all the good, loving, protecting guidelines that he’s provided to us for how to best and most fully live.
Think about it this way. If you were to walk off a cliff saying, “I don’t have to live by the law of gravity; I can live by my own rules,” you would, on the one hand, be disobeying a very specific rule and commandment—namely, “Don’t walk off a cliff.” But on the other hand, you would also not be living in reference to gravity. You would be living as if gravity were of no consequence or importance in your life. You would never say the law of gravity is arbitrary, or that it is unreasonable that you have to obey it. You would never say that, because you understand that gravity is something that we must live in reference to. Of course there are guidelines to honor and boundaries to acknowledge. You know the result of walking off a cliff and trying to break the law of gravity: death and disintegration.
When we don’t live as if God is God, when we break God’s loving law, when we fail to honor who he is, when we say or imply by our actions that he’s of no consequence or importance in this or that part of our lives, we fail to fully be the people God created us to be. And it leads to death and disintegration.
This illustration might help. Our solar system exists harmoniously when all the planets orbit the same center: the sun. If, however, the planets all decided on their own what to orbit, or if some of the planets chose not to orbit anything, what would happen? Death and disintegration. The solar system as we know it would unravel and fall apart because the planets would not be orbiting the correct center. They wouldn’t be living in reference to the sun. And therefore everything would fall apart and be destroyed.
Not living in reference to God not only leads to our personal death and disintegration; it’s the reason why the entire cosmos is subject to death and disintegration. God created Adam and Eve to be the centerpiece and the pinnacle of creation. When they sinned, their disobedience of God’s loving law not only had implications on their lives, it also had implications on the entire cosmos.
Paul writes that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Sin leads to death. And yet the gospel is that Jesus Christ experienced death so that we could live. In some ways he was disintegrated on the cross, spiritually torn apart, so that we could be made whole. He died for our sin, so that we could be made alive. He experienced death and disintegration. He paid the penalty for our sin, so that we would not have to.