This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 St. Timothy 1.15
Of all the words in the Bible, “sinner” is surely amongst the most misunderstood. In our day and age it carries with it overtones of judgementalism and gloom, all pointing fingers and pursed lips. Surely, say many, we should get rid of the word from the church. After all, it might put people off.
I must say that I think this is a mistake! At its root, “sinner” simply means someone who is not perfect. It does not mean that the person is as bad as they can be, or that their actions can be ranked as ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than the person who lives next door to them. In fact it is more mundane that, a sinner is someone who makes mistakes and is prone to temptation. It is someone who cannot claim to have been perfect at all times, and in all places. A “sinner” is, in fact, everyone.
There is a great liberation in realising this. Christianity does not demand that you be perfect. In fact it asks the opposite, it suggests that you acknowledge that you are imperfect. It was for “sinners” that “Christ Jesus came into the world”. As Jesus says in Mark 2:17: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”. The waiting room of the surgery is full of those who know they are unwell, and wish to get better. The church is full of those who know they are not perfect, but want to know God’s forgiveness of their sins. And then have his help in living better lives, to leave those sins behind.
So, sinner: rejoice! God does not insist you have to be perfect before you come to him, all he desires is that you acknowledge you are not perfect. Christ was sent to deal with your sin, so cast it onto his shoulders. And leave it there.