What is sin?

Sin is the intentional, willful or knowledgeable violation of a norm.
It is a thought, word or action which is shameful or harmful to oneself, others or to God.
It destroys the relationship between human beings and even God.

Causes of sin (Genesis 3-11)

  1. Rebellion against God as human beings aspired to be like God.
  2. Greed for power as human beings try to usurp the power which belongs to God alone.
  3. Lack of knowledge of God.
  4. Lack of trust in God’s providence.
  5. Failure to obey God by eating the forbidden fruit.
  6. Lack of satisfaction.
  7. Temptation by the devil.
  8. Selfishness.
  9. Wicked ambitions.
  10. Human weakness.
  11. Stubbornness.

The consequences of sin (Genesis 3, 4, 6 – 9)

As soon as the human beings disobeyed God by eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, the following consequences or results are seen; some of which were immediate and others long term.  These include:

  1. Human beings were alienated/ separated from God.
  2. Their friendship with Him changed to fear. (Genesis 3:8)
  3. What had been innocent and good became shameful.
  4. Adam and Eve were now ashamed of their nakedness, something they had not felt before they sinned against God. (Gen 3:10-14)
  5. Pain will be part of human experience “…….I will greatly multiply your pain in child bearing…..” Gen 3:16
  6. The Good relationship between God and human beings got ruined.
  7. The Lord God sent them out of the Garden of Eden. (Gen 3:23 – 24)
  8.  The perfect relationship between man and woman is damaged.
  9. Their relationship becomes one of hostility
  10. The Lord said to the woman…., “you will still have desire for your husband, yet you will be subject to him,”….. (Genesis 3:23 – 24)
  11.  People have to toil and struggle to meet their needs,”you will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything” (Gen 3:17 – 19)
  12. The earth itself is under a curse,”cursed is the ground because of you,”…. (Genesis 3:17)
  13. The relationship between human beings and the land which they were created from become mortal enemies each struggling to take life from the others until the ground finally regains victory. (Genesis 3:19)
  14. There arose enmity between man and wild animals (Genesis 3:15)
  15. Death sentence is passed upon all the people… “You will return to the ground….” “You are dust….” (Gen 3:19) (Roman 5:12) (1 Corinthians 8:19 – 23)
  16. Murderous feelings began to get into peoples hearts e.g. Cain killed Abel, his young brother (Gen 4:8)
  17. Human beings changed and became prone to sin “….the wickedness of man was great on earth…. Imagination and thought of his heart is evil continually”. (Gen 6:5 – 6)
  18. The life span of human beings was reduced Genesis 5 “….. I will not allow people to live forever…” “…they will not live beyond 120 years….”
  19. Global violence and forbidden marriages which led God to declare global destruction. (Genesis 6:1 – 9, 18)
  20. God felt regret and remorse having created human beings human i.e. sin awakened God’s anger. (Genesis 6:6 – 7)
  21. God confused human language after the flood “…. Let us go down and mix their language so that they will not understand one another….” (Genesis 11:7)


The need for salvation of humankind started after Adam and Eve committed the first sin. God’s plan of salvation can be outlined as follows:

  • Man was given punishment instead of total destruction by God/ God still gave Adam and Eve a chance to survive.
  • God initiated the making of the covenant with Noah/ Abraham. (Gen. 6, 12:1-9, 15:1-20).
  • God sent prophets to guide His people.
  • God made a covenant with the Israelites on Mount Sinai under the leadership of Moses. (Ex. 19, 20, 24).
  • Prophet Jeremiah/ Ezekiel foresaw a new covenant to be written on men’s hearts when the old covenant failed.
  • God looked for Adam and Eve in the garden and gave them means to obtain food/clothes when they were naked.
  • He gave Adam and Eve a chance to punish Satan/ serpent by crushing its head.
  • The teaching of messianic expectations by Prophet Nathan to David.
  • God’s salvation was ultimately realized through Jesus Christ who restored fellowship between human beings and God.


  • It is an offense against another person of the community or it is an offense against God, the spirits or ancestors.
  • African communities are aware of the existence of evil in the society and the existence of evil in the society and they try to avoid it.
  • African communities believed that God is good and did not create evil.
  • There are many ideas concerning the origin and nature of evil.

The following are some of the beliefs about the origin of evil;

  1. Many African communities believed they could be malicious/malevolent spirits.
  2. Such spirits could be having a grudge against the living who probably failed to pour libation and to give offering.
  3. Evil people e.g. wizards, witches, sorcerers who are able to tap mystical powers and use if for evil.  They therefore cause harm to the living
  4. Breaking of taboos, this result in becoming ritually unclean.
  5. Curses by parents and other older relatives e.g. uncles, grandparents, aunts etc.
  6. This occurs because when one offends them e.g. through insults, neglect and disobedience.
  7. Breaking of oaths/ a solemn promise.
  8. Oaths were usually made in order to seal an argument or to defend one against malicious accusations.
  9. Bad omen.
  10. Certain acts, words or things which are believed to have the effect of causing harm.

Similarities and differences between traditional African view of evil and biblical concept of sin


  1. In both cases, God is the Supreme Being and is good.  He is not the author of evil/sin.
  2. Both believe that sin/evil arises from human beings disobedience and greed.
  3. Both agree that sin causes a lot of human suffering.
  4. In both cases, evil may result from failing in a social/spiritual obligation
  5. In both cases, evil and sin results in human beings being separated from God
  6. In both cases, God is the guardian of morality, law and order
  7. In both cases, God is the guardian of morality, law and order.
  8. In both it destroys relationships among human beings.
  9. Both create a situation of fear and mistrust among members.
  10. In both cases, the ultimate result of both is death.
  11. Both evil and sin can result to destruction of God’ creation through natural calamities such as drought.
  12. In both cases, evil and sin can be avoided through righteous living.
  13. In both cases, there are spiritual powers associated with them.
  14. In both cases, result in punishment by God.


  1. African communities believed that the spirits of the dead are the cause of evil but not so in the bible.
  2. Some African communities believed that evil is an independent or isolated power employed by human beings to cause harm.  But it is not so in the Bible.
  3. The Bible believes that sinners will have eternal punishment but Africans believe that punishment is only in the present world.
  4. Biblically people are sinners as descendants of Adam and Eve i.e. sin is passed on from one generation to another.  This is not the case in African society.
  5. Although sin has separated humankind from God, Biblically there is a plan of salvation/ redemption, however, there is no such plan in African system.

Ways of dealing with evil doers in traditional African communities

  1. Imposing heavy fines.
  2. .Performing cleansing rituals.
  3. Killing of the evil doers.
  4. Cursing of the evil doer.
  5. Administering of oaths on suspects.
  6. Wearing of protective charms.
  7. Ex-communicating the evil doers from the community.
  8. Ridiculing them through songs.
  9. Denying them leadership positions.

Ways in which the church today disciplines errant members

  • They are denied the Holy Communion/ other sacraments for some time.
  • They are suspended from the church.
  • They are denied leadership positions in the church.
  • They are denied some services of the church.
  • They are reprimanded by leaders of the church and told to repent their sins.
  • They are forced to repent in public about their wrong doings.
  • They are given stern warnings.
  • They are charged a fine.
  • Some churches assign the certain chores to perform as punishment.
  • Some churches withdraw certain privileges from the culprits e.g. pastors are defrocked.
  • Church leaders are transferred from one station to another.

How the church helps to bring back members who have fallen from faith

  • By visiting them/ inviting them to their homes.
  • By being patient/ forgiving them.
  • By evangelizing them/preaching to them/ teaching them.
  • By guiding and counseling them/ referring them to experts according to their needs.
  • Praying for them.
  • By inviting them back to church.
  • By encouraging them to repent/ confess.
  • By offering them material needs/aid.
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