Late one night while we were on vacation this last week, I was flipping through the channels on our tv. I stumbled upon some televangelist in a bad suit with big hair. I stopped for a minute and listened. As a Christ follower, some of what he said absolutely resonated with me. But then came what made me change the channel. He began to seemingly praise his own righteousness as if it was something that he had done on his own. And began to condemn all of the “sinners” watching at home.
It was all of him that I could stomach and I changed the channel after that. But I kept thinking about the self-righteousness that he seemed so proud to display. And then I wondered how often we, as the church, as Christ followers come across the same way. We can get so caught up in our church lingo and our church labels that sometimes I think we forget that all of those labels have applied to us.
In particular with this instance is that label of sinner. It’s thrown around so lightly (and somewhat condemning) at times to describe those who don’t know Christ. But the reality is “Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.” Romans 3:23 (NIrV) Each and every one of us, Christ follower or not, is a sinner. The difference for us as Christ followers is that, through amazing grace that we’ve done nothing to earn and certainly don’t deserve, we’re forgiven.
But forgiveness doesn’t equal a sinless life. Honestly, there are areas where I almost daily fall short. Where I daily sin. And if I’m being totally honest, there are likely days where I don’t reflect Christ much at all. I’m a work in progress, just like you…just like that televangelist. Believing that my loving Father has forgiven me and will extend grace and mercy to me when I do fall short. And trusting in the promise that as I grow as a Christ follower, I will less often fall short.
My label no longer reads simply “Sinner”. Through no work of my own, my label now reads “Sinner, saved by grace”. Thanks to that televangelist, for those who are not Christ followers, I see the label differently now, too. It doesn’t simply read “Sinner”. It reads “Sinner in need of grace”.
I think, at least for me, the reminder that we are all sinners was a good one. The reminder that the heart of God is broken for those who don’t yet know him is a good one. The reminder that labels, self-righteousness and condemnation don’t draw people to Christ is a good one. The reminder that I often still sit in great need for God’s grace is a good one.