In the New Testament, the word sin in English is translated from the Greek ἁμαρτημα (hamartia). Ἁμαρτημα is derived from the verb ἁμαρτανω meaning to miss the mark. In Latin the verb peccare means to stumble, to trip, to falter. In Hebrew the verb חטא used for to sin which also has the basic meaning of “to miss the mark”.

The word sin in English is derived from the German ‘Sünde’, In Dutch the word is ‘zonde’. These words are much harder than missing the mark or to stumble. Here the intention is to do wrong; in the Greek and Latin the intention is good but unfortunately the mark was missed.

I see the need for both of these meanings in our lives. For most of our lives, we miss the mark, we stumble. Yet for a small class of people, the word sin derived from the German is the proper word. I don’t see any way that Hitler missed the mark or stumbled. The intention was to do wrong, and he sinned.

But what about all the other ways that a regular person (not a psychopath) “sins”? I think 99% of these “sins” can be classified with the “missing the mark” definition as ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament.

I was never taught in Church the difference in these two types of sins. When I drank a beer with my friends on graduation night, did I miss the mark, did I stumble (succumbing to peer pressure), or did I intentionally sin? When I slept in until 8 am on my mission, did I miss the mark, or did I sin?

If Jesus really did mean “miss the mark” in His teachings every time He used what is translated to sin in English, how does this new meaning change the way we look at our worthiness? If we take this missing the mark literally, does an archer feel shame or guilt when their arrow misses the bullseye (mark). Or do they realize they need to do better, and try again and again until they do hit it?

What if we emphasized in Church the “missing the mark” part of this equation? Could we as a Church get away from the shame and guilt associated with “sin”, and reframe it to stumbling, then getting up and trying it again?

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