I Am A Sinner

I am a sinner.

Those seem like difficult words to say in our society. It doesn't fit in with our artificial self-esteem building, the "I can do anything" spiel, or the "I am perfect the way God made me" talk.

They say that the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is the most difficult step: admitting that you are an alcoholic. But you can't progress through the other steps until you admit that first one.

Prior to having GPS, most ladies could relate to being driven around in a car in which the driver was lost, wouldn't admit it, nor would he stop to ask for directions. The first step to finding your way is to admit that you are lost.

But we have trouble admitting our faults. For some reason, we like to pretend that we are Superman. Never wrong. Never weak. Never mistaken.  Except, unlike Superman, we have no kryptonite. Or at least we like to pretend that. We might not dress up in a Superman outfit anymore. We have grown out that. But we like to dress up in pride and arrogance and pretend we're perfect.

The word "sinner" has such a bad connotation attached to it that we don't want to take that label on ourselves. But taking that bad connotation and applying it to ourselves is exactly how spiritual growth begins. Like the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous and finding your way when you are lost, the most difficult step in growing spiritually is also that first step: "I am a sinner."

This inability to acknowledge sin has permeated our culture too. We can't call anything a sin because that would be intolerant to people living in sin. We can't instruct what right living should look like because we might offend those who have chosen a different path. We are labeled as being hypocrites and judgmental when we call something a sin; attacks that discourage us from teaching the right course of action that brings freedom because that would be intolerant to those that may have chosen a different way to live.

Now, we have a few exceptions. We can call rapists or pedophiles sinners. There may be a few more actions that our society easily labels "sin." But these things that we can call sin have to be the loftiest of sins. Never mind the contradiction in the crowd that teaches tolerance turning around and being intolerant toward the things they believe are significant enough to call sin.

This shows that the real issue isn't whether we can be intolerant toward sin; it's what we think is sin. All people are intolerant toward the things that they view as sin. Some are even intolerant toward sinners. The real issue is whether we believe there is or what we believe is sin.

There is the popular saying among Christians, "Hate the sin. Love the sinner." It's origin is unknown, but its meaning has roots in Scripture. Jude wrote, "But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:20-23 ESV).

Keep yourself in God's love, but hate the garment stained by sin. Hate the sin. Love the sinner.

Our  natural instincts tell us to hate the sinner. We want to hate the pedophile, the rapist, and the Boston bomber. But then we are reminded, "Hate the sin. Love the sinner." And those who aren't wrestling with this don't understand hating the sin and loving the sinner. They think we hate people because we think that something is a sin, or they think we are too loving when we choose to love those who are, from our perspective, the most disgusting.

Which leads to me. I am a sinner. I can still be loved despite my sin. For while I was a sinner, Jesus died for me. He didn't die for me because I was perfect. Actually, His death is meaningless to me if I live pretending that I am perfect. He died for me because He loved me. And He didn't just die for me; He died for all of us. So that in Him, we can move beyond the mistakes (sin) we have made into the life that He has called us to.

On the other side of that first step, when we stop to ask for directions, is the destination we were made to head toward. Don't believe in a lie that keeps you remaining lost. You aren't perfect. You aren't the best person in the world. You aren't God's gift to humanity. You are a sinner, like me and everyone else, in need of grace and a change in direction toward the path that God designed us for.