Some college professor of mine at some point said something that really stuck. It was about the word ‘sin’, as in ‘to sin’. He said the original Hebrew meaning of sin is ‘to miss the mark’.

To miss a target seems pretty common and forgivable, doesn’t it? You check the direction of the wind, draw the arrow back, aim and let go. Yet poor eyesight, a startling noise, or a sudden shift of the breeze lifts the arrow and sends it on an unintended course. Seems like there are many contingencies that may pull your arrow from its intended target. Perhaps it was a mistake or some unknown outside phenomenon, or both. Does it matter? You’ve missed your target. That’s okay. Try again.

To sin is to miss the mark. How did that idea get twisted into an act that violates god’s will? What if sinning is an unquestioning belief in what major religions tell us? That’s certainly missing a mark. Sages speak to crowds over the eons. People interpret what the sages say in their own way, bringing to that interpretation their own baggage. Pretty soon, the sages’ words are passed down through the generations colored by each interpreter’s own life experiences. Religions, born of the dividing fences between one group’s interpretation and another’s, become cemented in ritualistic practices and daily habits. Not long after the divides are built, blood is shed.

Surely, this all is a sin, a missed mark – an arrow blown off course.

If so, then it’s time to try again. We don’t have to erase what has happened before us from our memories. The gore, greed, and guilt of our mistakes can be our teachers. Now that we know the wind is blowing southwesterly, we can adjust our aim and try again. Maybe this time our target will be the divides, and our arrows the dynamite. Let’s unite.