I’m a sinner. Wow, that’s not a hard statement to say or read anymore, is it? I mean, ask any Christian if they’re a sinner, and they will fire back happily, “Yes!” We have even gone so far as to create bumper stickers to let every driver know that we are “Not Perfect, But Forgiven.”
Even when we reach out a welcoming hand at church to the people next to us in the pews or narthex, we are aware that we are all sinners who are saved by grace. And “sin” is such a great word. It’s so blanketing, so comforting and so easy to use in Christian-speak at church.
“I am struggling right now with sin.”
“Forgive me of my sin.”
“Those two are living in sin.”
It’s almost become like a coverall for our actual sin to hide under. So, why do we do that? In the body of Christ, when we are with other believers, why don’t we simply come out and say the truth?
“I am struggling right now with coveting.”
“Forgive me of my theft.”
“Those two are living in adultery.”
Perhaps those labels are still unacceptable. It’s like we all wear nametags at church, but they just say “SINNER” on them. We are at ease with the word, and we know that whatever our wrong, we can just cover it with that nametag. But as soon as someone learns the “True Name” to our sin, the nametag becomes a label. What happens when we become labeled a person who looks at pornography on the Internet, or a person who has been in jail? What secrets spread when the congregation knows that we have had an affair or that we get drunk in bars? Do people still reach out a friendly welcoming hand if we are the church gossip or the unwed mother?
Once people know the name of our sin, it’s almost as if they can’t believe it. They can’t believe that Mrs. Taylor got thrown out of the market for stealing; she seemed like such a nice lady. They can’t believe that Kyle got mixed up with drugs at school—he just raked the Mitchells’ yard last week with the youth group. Why is it so hard to fathom when we see famous preachers or local priests as sinners? Do we actually believe in our hearts that these men and women NEVER sin? Or do we just know that they sin, but secretly hope that, like us, they are never caught?
Why is it so easy to believe and understand that we are all sinners, but once we learn the actual name to that sin, the sin becomes unbelievable? Or sometimes unforgivable …
Just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, how many of us in public or in secret have dragged the woman caught in adultery out into the street?
“As he [Jesus] was speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the very act of adultery’” John 8:3-4 (NLT).
What did Jesus say?
The Pharisees were not wrong, mind you—the Bible never says she was falsely accused. The woman thrown to the street shows every sign of her guilt. Not only that, but the Old Testament law does stand: she could be stoned for her sin, right out in public, naked, with her husband and the whole town watching.
What did Jesus say? In a nutshell, He told them to read their own nametags. Strip away the sin and see the sinner.
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!’” John 8:7 (NLT).
Maybe it would be better for the Church if we were more like Alcoholics Anonymous. One by one, we would stand up, state our name and expose our sin. Hello, my name is David Kenney, and I am sexually immoral. And as each member rose and stood, their sin would be met with hugs and tears and love and acceptance. Young and old ready to be real with each other, prepared to be exposed with each other. No more hiding and no more nametags and no more labels. Just people. Brethren.
As the body, we should be reaching out like Christ. We should be extending a hand of forgiveness and love. The Master’s words should be our own: “And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I [condemn you]. Go and sin no more’” John 8:11 (NLT).