Since humanity’s beginning, ROM323, a deadly spiritual virus, has been spreading as a global pandemic, infecting every heart, home and relationship. No one has remained unscathed. According to Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This ROM323 virus is commonly known as sin.

All humans, originally designed in God’s image (Genesis 1), are marred by sin (Genesis 3) and have fallen into a state of brokenness. Our brokenness is called total depravity. Total depravity doesn’t mean we are as bad as we could possibly be. Instead, it means that every aspect of human life is so marred by sin and fallenness that we are utterly incapable of fixing, saving, or perfecting ourselves. Universally infected with ROM323, humanity needs a Savior for spiritual healing and wholeness.

What was the original sin?


The original sin was more than just eating fruit; it was disobeying God’s direct order (Genesis 3). This disobedience came through unbelief, as Adam and Eve listened to the serpent’s lies rather than God’s truth. It was also the result of selfish pride. They swallowed the bait, being enticed to taste from the wrong tree in order to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

That’s how the virus develops in us today. We distrust God’s design, follow our own selfish desires and end up disobeying him.



Personal choice

Why did God create the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the first place? It would have been much more convenient if the sin virus had never entered the human race. If it had gone that way, however, love could not exist.

God, as a Trinity (one God in three persons), exemplifies perfect love. Being fashioned in his image, we are designed to love, and such love always requires a choice. If it is forced, it cannot be love. To love, we must be free to choose not to love. Love and trust go together. Freedom to trust God includes the freedom to mistrust him. Freedom to obey necessitates freedom to disobey. While God loves us deeply, he never forces us to love, trust or obey him in return because love is a personal decision.


Sin after regeneration

Christians experience new life, but old habits and patterns die hard. Thus, we may find ourselves in a cycle of spiritual defeat: sinning, feeling guilty and repenting. Romans 7:15-20 describes this dilemma: the things I don’t want to do — I do.

One Greek term for sin, hamartia, literally means “missing the mark.” Many believe that we all must sin (miss the mark) in thought, word and deed every day. If missing the mark means falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), then they are correct. By this lofty definition, we sin every moment in every thought, word and deed since no finite humans can fully rise to the heights of God’s wondrous glory.

Wesleyans, however, define sin as a willful or intentional transgression of a known law of God. In other words, we sin when we deliberately do the wrong thing, disregarding what God wants for us. By this definition, there is no compelling reason why we must sin (deliberately disobey God) daily in thought, word and deed. 1 John 2:1 says, “I write this to you so you will not sin …” And Romans 6:1-2 declares, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” God has a better design for us than staying in a repeated sin/shame cycle. He wants to give us spiritual victory and this is highlighted in Romans 7:25, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Temptation is common to everyone — believer and nonbeliever alike — but our faithful God always provides an escape hatch (1 Corinthians 10:13). Nobody is beyond the reach of temptation and even mature believers may stumble. This is why 1 John 2:1 includes “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 

Involuntary sin

Even the most committed Christians still suffer after-effects of the ROM323 virus. Through quirks and frailties, we fall short or may cause unintentional harm. It’s a part of being human and God’s grace covers such human flaws. When we realize, after the fact, that we have behaved wrongly, love obligates us to make it right as soon as possible (Matthew 5:23-24). Spiritual maturity closes the distance between our mess-ups and our fess-ups.

 Holy love conquers sin

If we love God, we will want to please him (John 14:15). We are less likely to willfully disobey God if we surrender ourselves entirely to him, seeking to have our hearts filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. This wholehearted devotion is holiness! When holy love reigns, sin no longer controls our lives. It becomes our mortal enemy rather than our clandestine lover. At the end of the day, whatever we love most, wins.

Mark O. Wilson is an associate professor of Christian Ministry and the Religion Department coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina, author and serves as the evangelism catalyst for The Wesleyan Church and as the South Carolina district ambassador.


Questions for reflection and conversation

  • The ROM323 spiritual virus has universally infected humanity since Adam and Eve’s first sin. The damage has been long standing and catastrophic. In what ways has the ROM323 spiritual virus affected you in your life whether due to your own personal disobedience or the disobedience of others?
  • “The original sin was more than just eating fruit; it was disobeying God’s direct order. This disobedience came through unbelief, as Adam and Eve listened to the serpent’s lies rather than God’s truth.” In what ways and in what areas of our lives do we choose to believe the lies of Satan over the promises of God? Why do we distrust God and follow our own selfish desires?
  • We are created in God’s image and designed to love. Love always requires a choice. It cannot be forced. God loves us so much that he gives us the freedom to choose to love, the freedom to choose to trust as well as the freedom to choose to distrust him. In what areas of your life do you tend to distrust God, his promises and provision for you? Why?
  • Wesleyans define sin as a willful or intentional transgression of a known law of God. Take a moment to differentiate between a willful/intentional transgression and an accidental/unintentional transgression. How does this exercise help you better understand the Wesleyan definition of sin?
  • In 1 John 2:1 it says, “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” What does it mean that we have an advocate? How does having an advocate that loves you, seeks to forgive you and cover your sins with his grace and mercy make you feel? If you are struggling with sin or temptation today, cry out to your advocate. He will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).


All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

“The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” used by the permission of Wesleyan Publishing House: Fishers, Indiana.