The normal Greek word for “sin,” namely hamartia, means “missing the mark”: shooting at a target and failing to hit it. This is subtly but importantly different from being given a long and fussy list of things you must and mustn’t do and failing to observe them all. In the story the Bible is telling, humans were created for a purpose, and Israel was called for a purpose, and the purpose was not simply “to keep the rules,” “to be with God,” or “to go to heaven,” as you might suppose from innumerable books, sermons, hymns, and prayers.
Humans were made to be “image-bearers,” to reflect the praises of creation back to the Creator and to reflect the Creator’s wise and loving stewardship into the world. Israel was called to be the royal priesthood, to worship God and reflect his rescuing wisdom into the world. In the Bible, “sin” – for which there are various words in Hebrew – is the outworking of a prior disease, a prior disobedience: a failure of worship. Humans are made to worship the God who created them in his own image and so to be sustained and renewed in that image-bearing capacity.
Like many scholars today, I understand the idea of the “image,” as in Genesis 1:26–28, to mean that humans are designed to function like angled mirrors. We are created in order to reflect the worship of all creation back to the Creator and by that same means to reflect the wise sovereignty of the Creator into the world.
The Day the Revolution Began (N. T. Wright)