Originally posted at: http://applyingmybeliefs.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/sin-effect-affect-and-infect/
This is about what other people’s sin does to us; it is about why we need to pay attention to it, not stick our head in the sand about like a human ostrich. The sin of others influences our personal world at three different levels; the effect level, the affect level and infect level.
God defines sin here:
1 John 3:4 – Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. ESV
The word “sin” in scripture is also translated/defined from the original Hebrew or Greek by these English words:
- A missing, perversity, transgression, evil, miss the mark, transgression with a sense of violence, injustice and unrighteousness.
Sin in our culture is thought of in a myriad of ways, but here we’ll stick to the biblical view; sin is lawlessness, that is, sin is a breaking of God’s law, it is disobedience in action, and that includes our thought/feeling/choosing processes. (Yes, we can sin in our thoughts, in our feelings about something or someone and in our choices, even if we don’t get to act on them.)
When other people sin against us, directly or indirectly, there is an unholy influence on us. I have suggested this occurs at three levels which I have called effect, affect and infect. As we’ll see, some sins influence us in all three areas.
Sin that has an “effect” on us is sin that causes something to change in our circumstances. For example, if a person runs a red light and hits our car, our circumstances will change. Or if local politicians pass a law that takes away our personal property against our will for the benefit of someone else, our circumstances will change, it has had an “effect” on our life. In this last example we should note that the “effect” of this sin on the other person is to also change their circumstances, but presumably to their benefit.
A basic effect sin is usually unavoidable and totally out of our control. However, there is an aspect of effect sin that we must watch out for. If we knowingly go into a situation where we can be sinned against, we would have at least a partial responsibility. For example if we are young woman who goes to a party where there are young men drinking to excess, the risk of sexual assault is high. They are still the sinners, but the young woman may have unwittingly chosen to put herself at risk.
We live in a fallen world so we all experience “effect” sins and must do our best to deal with the changed circumstance as possible.
The next category of sin is the “affect” sin. This is the type of sin that gets to us internally and changes our mood state. Some of the sins committed against us can do that permanently. Going back to our example above of the young woman this is very likely. When a young woman is sexually assaulted not only does it change her circumstances but it changes her emotional state. Most of us would agree that such an event could increase fear, deepen or add depression and raise anxiety in her.
So an “affect” sin will both change external circumstance and internal soul state of someone who encounters it. Our damaged internal state may be minor and we’ll work through it with God ourselves. Or, it could be major, as with our victim of sexual assault, and require intervention and help from a support system and most likely a trained therapist.
The last and worst category of sin against us is “infect” sin. Infect sin is sin that will change our personhood, it will change who we are, it will move us away from being the person that God designed us to be. A great example of “infect” sin is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse changes a person’s circumstances, it changes their mood state, but its worst influence is on who a person is. So often a person who has been sexually abused then “acts out” in some way later on in life. We may see them become sexually active, or they may drink and drug or isolate. This is because their inner person, their very being, has been infected with sin.
Healing from infect sin requires supernatural intervention from God, a miracle. I’m not talking about a sudden change in the inner person of an infected individual; I’m talking about the healing that comes from confession and prayer as described in scripture here:
Jas 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ESV
A person with an infection given to them through someone else’s sin will most likely need to work with a counselor who specializes in the area of infection and a godly team of advisors for prayer and support in their healing work.
In case you don’t believe in infectious sin, here is a verse from scripture that speaks of what happens when infectious sin takes over:
Gen 6:5-6 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. ESV
Every person on the earth, and some estimates say there may have been as many as 6 billion people in existence at that time, was infected except Noah and his family.
We all know what happened after this. Thanks be to God that He promised not to do that again, because I don’t know if any of us has not been infected in some way.
So there it is, other people’s sins effect, affect and infect us. It is an unsafe life practice to ignore them.
As they say in recovery, take what you like and leave the rest.