Sin, according to the scriptures is “lawlessness” and “wrongdoing” (1 Jn 3.4, 5.17). To do wrong and to be unrighteous is to sin. In the Greek language the word sin originally meant “missing the mark,” that is, moving in the wrong direction, toward the wrong aims and goals. It means choosing and going in the way of death, and not the way of life.
There are many scriptural expressions for sin, all of which presuppose a primordial rightness and goodness. The word fall indicates a movement down and away from an original high and lofty state. The word stain reveals that there was once an original purity that has been defiled. The word transgression means a movement against that which is primarily right. The word guilt reveals prior innocence. The words estrangement and alienation indicate that one was first “at home,” living in a sound and wholesome condition. The word deviation means that one has gone off his original way.
There are no words for sin which do not reveal in their very utterance that sin is an unnatural state of man, a condition brought about by the destruction, distortion, and loss of something good which was originally present. Every sin and wickedness exists only because man’s being and life are naturally positive and good. Every evil and sin act only as “parasites” on that which is primarily perfect and whole. Thus, in the Orthodox tradition, sin is not considered to be a normal and natural part of human being and life. To be human and to be a sinner is contradictory. Rather, to be truly human is to be righteous, pure, truthful, and good.
Spiritual life, in this sense, consists of only one thing: not to sin. Not to sin is to be like God and His Son Jesus Christ. It is the goal of human life.
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that Christ appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has either seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as He is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. By this it may be seen who are children of God, and who are children of the devil; whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother (1 Jn 3.4–10).
Not to sin is the goal of human life. But in fact all people do sin. It is for this reason that the possibility to be freed from sin and to overcome sin comes through the saving work of Christ, who forgives the sins of the world.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. …by this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked (1 Jn 1.8–2.6).