The Hebrew word khata’ is most commonly translated as “sin.” Khata’ means “to fail” or “to miss the goal,” and the word is not always about morality.
In Judges 20:16, we learn that a slingshot expert who successfully nails the bullseye does not khata’, which means he does not fail or miss the target. Similarly, we read in Proverbs 19:2 that people who act hastily while traveling are likely to khata’—to miss their intended destination.
So if sin is missing a goal, what’s the goal?
When God creates humanity in his divine image, he sets the goal. Genesis 1:26 captures an interesting statement from God, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness,” reminding us that this single God exists in three different yet undivided persons—Father, Word, and Spirit—inseparable but distinct, forever together in unbreakable love. To be created in the image of a God like this suggests that humanity’s most essential nature is divine love. Living with love for God and one another and all creation is our primary human goal. Choosing to not love invites corruption into the goodness of creation, so it is khata’—sin.
Examining khata’ in the Hebrew Bible simultaneously makes the idea of sin clearer and more mysterious. Sin is like a crouching monster outside of us, waiting to pounce and corrupt by tempting us to be unloving toward God and others. But every human can reject it by choosing to aim for the truest human goal—becoming infinitely loving toward God and others.
And that’s the memo.
By The Bible Project