A failure, an error, sin
A Clever Verse for Context
For our sake he made him to be sin (hamartia) who knew no sin (hamartia), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
For us human beings our problem is not that we make mistakes it is that those mistakes become a part of us. If we look back at the story of humanity’s fall, it is not the eating of the forbidden fruit which ultimately gets the first people exiled from Eden but the way their guilt and shame makes them turn away from God and against one another (Genesis 3:8-13). The word sin (harmartia) hits on this misorientation of the human heart, what Luther called the “heart turned in on itself.”
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (4th cent. BCE) uses this word to describe the crucial “flaw” that afflicts the ideal tragic hero. For Aristotle, the best kind of tragedy features a man who suffers, not because of a thoroughly wicked character, but because he has one terrible “flaw” (hamartia, see Aristotle’s Poetics 1453a).
Clever Questions for Further Reflection
How have your mistakes or the mistakes of others “misoriented” your heart?
In what ways do you experience sin in the world and in your own life?
A Clever Prayer to Close
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.