Here’s a question I got recently: “It has always bothered me that I am a sinful human. None of my good efforts, leading a good life can deter sin. I was born with sin and I have to be forgiven? I don’t get that. Why am I a ‘sinner’ and why do I need to be forgiven?” This is a difficult question to answer, especially when it comes from a genuine, good-hearted person. Nobody wants to think of themselves as a “sinner.” For the most part, all of us try to be kind, nice, and loving. We’re not serial killers, or bank robbers, or child molesters, or even shady politicians. It seems unfair to call someone a sinner — especially when you also seem to be saying that they were born to be that way.
There is a unique Christian solution to this dilemma. I’d like to offer three things to keep in mind when you think about it:
Exchange the Word “Sinner” with “Rebel”
I think part of the problem is that “sin” is a religiously loaded word. Yes, we are sinners, but the word conjures images of angry preachers demeaning our character and yelling from the pulpit that we need to “repent!” It all just sounds so judgmental and archaic. But the simple fact is that every one of us has done wrong things, no matter how small we think they are. We have all lied, cheated, stolen things, or mistreated other people. We have all been angry, jealous, or unfair to someone in our lives. It’s part of being human. So, if we have all done these things, it’s not unfair to acknowledge it. It’s just an observation about our common human nature.
The problem is that every time we do one of these things, we are violating an objective standard of moral goodness that we all recognize and should be trying to live our lives by. All of us realize this But, we do these kinds of things anyway. Every single human being who has ever lived is therefore a rebel in the same way. So, exchange the word “sinner” with “rebel.” Both are accurate, but rebel sounds less judgmental.
Use a Different Standard for Comparison
Instead of comparing ourselves to the bad actors in the world and seeing ourselves as pretty decent folks, we need to measure our rebellious actions against the standard we are actually violating. That standard is the perfect moral character of God. Nobody likes being told they’re a “sinner,” but when we change our mindset to realize our rebellion is against a perfect God, it puts things in a different perspective.
Imagine an artist’s masterpiece with a tiny flaw. Someone erases an eyeball on the Mona Lisa or vandalizes it with a single drop of bright yellow paint. Yes, the flaw is tiny. But no matter how small it is, you can’t help but see it. A tiny corruption in a masterpiece ruins the whole thing.
The Unique Christian Solution
If the standard is perfection, then any violation of that standard, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, creates an infinite separation between us and that perfection. Think of it as an infinitely wide canyon where we are on one side and God is on the other. Every religion offers a solution to crossing the divide, but Christianity’s solution is unique.
There are three possible responses to bridging the canyon we create when we rebel against God’s perfect moral standard.
- Pretend the bridge isn’t there. This is basically the solution of the eastern and new age religions. People, and pain, and suffering, and rebellion are all just illusions. There is no need to build a bridge across a divide that doesn’t even exist. But it does make one wonder why we all seem to recognize our rebellious behavior if it’s just an illusion.
- We can build the bridge ourselves. This is the idea that we can fix the mend by doing nice things to make up for the bad stuff we’ve done. Some call this a “works-based” theology, where we “work” our way back into God’s good graces. This is the solution offered by every other theistic religion (Judaism, Islam, Mormonism etc.). The problem with that is that the gap we’re tying to mend is infinite. We can work all we want but no human being is going to be able to build a bridge across an infinitely wide chasm.
- God can build the bridge for us. What makes Christianity unique is that we don’t have to build the bridge. God builds it for us. It was the reason he came to Earth. He is the bridge between God and man. His suffering and death on the cross was the infinite payment required to make up for our rebellion. His resurrection sealed the deal.
All we have to do is acknowledge the fairly obvious fact that we are all rebels when we compare ourselves to the proper standard — then let God build us a bridge.
Recommended resources related to the topic:
Why We Know the New Testament Writers Told the Truth by Frank Turek (mp4 Download)
Bob Perry is a Christian apologetics writer, teacher, and speaker who blogs about Christianity and the culture at truehorizon.org. He is a Contributing Writer for the Christian Research Journal and has also been published in Touchstone, and Salvo. Bob is a professional aviator with 37 years of military and commercial flying experience. He has a B.S., Aerospace Engineering from the U. S. Naval Academy, and an M.A., Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart since 1985. They have five grown sons.
Original blog: https://bit.ly/3Oa1k0t