But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
- Romans 3:21-26
“But too often it has been overlooked that the opposite of sin is not virtue, not by any manner of means. This in part is a pagan view which is content with a merely human measure and properly does not know what sin is, that all sin is before God. No, the opposite of sin is faith, as affirmed in Romans 14:23, ‘whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ And for the whole of Christianity it is one of the most decisive definitions that the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith.”
- Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death (Emphasis, the author’s)
I have heard people define Christianity as simply trying to do your best. In working with a group from P.R. China, they characterized the Christians as “those people who help others.” I have often heard someone dear to me say that “Christians sin, but they should sin less.”
Yet, no one, until you have met Jesus for yourself, seems to identify Christianity with faith. In fact, many non-believers denigrate the Christian’s faith as being unrealistic. After all, you believe in the unseen.
Yet, Kierkegaard says that the opposite of sin is faith. He goes through volumes of arguments about how our ‘despair’ is sin and sin is despair. He gives precise definitions of sin, but then he gives ‘the most decisive’ definition of sin as being the opposite of faith.
I have known many virtuous atheists. I have known atheists that were proud of their virtue and how their virtue was consistent, while their Christian neighbors were inconsistent. That works great as long as the opposite of sin is virtue.
That argument falls apart when looking at the opposites of sin and faith. The Christian, who probably should sin less, has a faith in God that his/her sins are forgiven. As a result, or a prerequisite, they forgive others of the wrongdoing done to them. Thus, when they stumble in the fallen world, they know that God is there to hold them up.
I have mentioned the bookend commandments, numbers 1 and 10. I have heard others use the same term, but honestly, if I had heard that before I wrote it, I cannot remember my source. The non-believer may keep the ones in between, but the bookend commandments turn anything that is outside faith into sin. We must put God first (the First Commandment) and rely on what God grants us (the natural corollary to the Tenth Commandment). When we wish for more than what God grants to us, thus coveting what others have, we are saying that God is not doing His job properly. We are dissatisfied with what we have. That points to not putting God first and putting our desires and wants first.
We may think that everyone should experience Walt Disney World, but that is not a necessity of life. We may think that everyone should, as Herbert Hoover had in a presidential advertisement, have a chicken for every pot, but sadly some go without. We may feel that if we just had a new home, a new car, or a new job, life would be better, but faith says that when we rely on God, He provides our needs, even when, at the moment, it does not seem so likely.
Kierkegaard said that the opposite of sin is faith, and Paul basically said that the opposite of faith (everything not faith) is sin.
So, what it boils down to is that when we have faith in God, we put God first and rely on what God grants us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.