I Am Not a Sinner

 

At the risk of alienating some of my Christian friends, I want to get some feedback on my reaction to a phrase that is often stated by those who are Christian. I have seen many members say they are sinners, which is not a label that Jews use to define themselves. Of course, we sin, and probably plenty of times, but our focus is on recognizing our shortcomings, apologizing to people when we hurt them, and trying to make amends. I don’t think I was born into sin, nor do I believe that I have to overcome the mistakes that Adam and Eve made. I know that G-d expects me to make good and wise choices, not bad or hurtful choices, and I know He knows that I know that. I don’t think I would be helped by calling myself a sinner.

So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner. I’m not making it out to be bad or wrong, but I just don’t understand the purpose behind it, and how it is helpful to the devout Christian. I suspect it might be related to one’s relationship with Jesus, but I just am not clear.

As I reflect on my life, I am occasionally overcome by hubris. I so dislike when I let myself fall into that mindset. I also try not to concentrate on my shortcomings and errors, though I have plenty of those. When I beat up on myself, I get stuck in a negative attitude. I sometimes isolate myself from others, and my creative juices dry up. For many years I told people I wasn’t creative—so I wasn’t—until I changed my attitude. So, I try to find the balance of acknowledging my faults while also becoming a better person.

So, if you consider yourself a sinner, please consider this as a serious inquiry and not a judgment of you as a Christian. Thanks for your help.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
This post was promoted to the Main Feed at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 99 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    I think that it’s a reminder that we all sin and need to continue to mend our ways and emulate Christ.

    Also I think some Christians may say it to prevent others from thinking that they (the Christian) think they are better than a non-Christian.  Or (if they are having a conversation and perhaps giving some unsolicited advice or criticism  to another Christian) trying to deflect the same kind of response.

    I try not to give unsolicited advice to anyone.  I’m not 100% successful, but much better than I was when in my 20’s and 30’s.  These days when I’m tempted, I usually preface it with, “How do you feel about unsolicited advice?”  If they don’t want it, I change the subject.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EB (View Comment):
    I try not to give unsolicited advice to anyone.  I’m not 100% successful, but much better than I was when in my 20’s and 30’s.  These days when I’m tempted, I usually preface it with, “How do you feel about unsolicited advice?”  If they don’t want it, I change the subject.

    Boy, does that take discipline! I did it for years and do it much less. Sometimes when I can’t help myself, I ask if I can offer a suggestion (and realize the person may say no).

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    EB (View Comment):
    I think that it’s a reminder that we all sin and need to continue to mend our ways and emulate Christ.

    I figured the reminder part was important, but I guess I’m very well aware I can scew up.

    • #3
  4. Brian J Bergs Coolidge
    Brian J Bergs
    @BrianBergs

    Ms. Quinn, this is a fabulous question.  Thank you for the courage to ask it.  I hope you can be tolerant of my attempt to respond in a positive manner.

    The answer lies in the basis of Christianity itself, why did our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, have to give up his divinity and become man to suffer and die.

    The basic answer is because all of humanity sins (we are sinners) and needs God’s saving grace.  We are rebels against God from the moment we are conceived, it’s in our spiritual DNA.  

    EB’s answer is a great start to the practical outcomes.  Maybe other Christians can keep adding to the list.

    1. Reminder of our basic sinful nature and we need God.
    2. Keep trying to become more like Christ who lived a perfect life(sanctification).
    3. Remind us that we are all equal in the eyes of God (Christians and non-Christians alike).
    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Brian J Bergs (View Comment):
    We are rebels against God from the moment we are conceived, it’s in our spiritual DNA.  

    Thank you for your very thoughtful response. So you believe we rebel against G-d at conception and there’s no getting around that. I assume that is due to the sins of Adam and Eve?

    • #5
  6. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    I do not disagree with the comments by @EB or @brianbergs, but I think there is an additional reason.  By verbalizing and admission to being a sinner, one hopes not to come across as “holier than thou” when discussing any religious matter.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I do not disagree with the comments by @ EB or @ brianbergs, but I think there is an additional reason. By verbalizing and admission to being a sinner, one hopes not to come across as “holier than thou” when discussing any religious matter.

    My only thought about that is that it might be projecting a false humility if it’s not genuine. I think a person’s tone, rather than content, would make him or her sound elitist. Or maybe it’s a good way to remind oneself to keep their sinful nature in mind and not get too cocky?

    • #7
  8. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    I do not disagree with the comments by @ EB or @ brianbergs, but I think there is an additional reason. By verbalizing and admission to being a sinner, one hopes not to come across as “holier than thou” when discussing any religious matter.

    Yes, I think even non-religious people may use the phrase we are all sinners to acknowledge that it is unreasonable to expect anyone to be perfect and we shouldn’t just others too harshly.

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Lower Order Oaf 🚫 Banned
    DrewInWisconsin, Lower Order Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Short version . . . maybe a longer version later. It’s not merely about admitting sins, it’s an acknowledgement that nobody can earn their way to heaven; that nobody can follow every point of the Law and by that be righteous enough to redeem themselves. Through Adam all have fallen, and there is no possible way to atone for all that sin.

    That’s the whole point of the messiah — someone who can take on the sins of the whole world and be the sacrifice, once for all.

    So to say that we are all sinners is to say that we cannot earn our way to heaven ourselves, we can never balance out the weight of sin with good works. It requires the enormous sacrificial act of the Messiah.

    Maybe more later. : )

    • #9
  10. Juno Delta Whiskey Coolidge
    Juno Delta Whiskey
    @Cato

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Brian J Bergs (View Comment):
    We are rebels against God from the moment we are conceived, it’s in our spiritual DNA.

    Thank you for your very thoughtful response. So you believe we rebel against G-d at conception and there’s no getting around that. I assume that is due to the sins of Adam and Eve?

    I believe the Christian answer to this would originate from passages such as Genesis 8:20-21

    “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.'” (emphasis mine).

    Psalm 14:2-3

    “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
    To see if there are any who understand,
    Who seek after God.
    They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
    There is no one who does good, not even one.”

    Jeremiah 17:9

    “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

    Ecclesiastes 9:3

    “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.”

    I think there’s an argument to be made for the age of accountability, where a child becomes accountable for their actions. And, of course, it’s worth noting there my be differences in translation and emphasis between Jewish and Christian scholars. But the Christian understanding of original sin is rooted in Hebrew scripture.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Juno Delta Whiskey (View Comment):
    ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.’”

    Good points, JDW. I would note that G-d did not say man was born evil, but experiences evil from his youth. To me, that means that we are all subject to evil from a young age, and I agree with that point. 

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    As you can probably tell by now, I have a great reluctance to claim I am a sinner. It’s as if to say, in my essence, that is what I am. I believe I was born with the capacity to do good or evil, and as much as I can, I choose good.

    That’s the biggest resistance I have.

    • #12
  13. Al Sparks Coolidge
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    I think it’s semantics.  Both faiths acknowledge man has been fallen since the Garden of Eden.  Both faiths acknowledge their imperfections.

    Christians talk about repentence, Jews about making amends.  To me it’s functionally the same thing.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    I think it’s semantics.  Both faiths acknowledge man has been fallen since the Garden of Eden. 

    Not true. Jews do not believe man has fallen; we don’t believe in original sin.

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn: I Am Not a Sinner

    Oh, you’re no fun anymore! 😜

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: I Am Not a Sinner

    Oh, you’re no fun anymore! 😜

    Well, I know where I can go if I change my mind!

    • #16
  17. W Bob Member
    W Bob
    @WBob

    Historically, it probably started when St. Paul realized he wasn’t going to be able to get gentile converts to agree to be circumcised. For obvious reasons. So how to rationalize allowing them to convert without effectively becoming Jews first, which is what other missionaries were requiring?

    You have to equalize Jews and Christians at a fundamental level. The doctrine of universal sinfulness accomplished this. The first three chapters of Romans spells it out. Jews might have the Law, but they’re really no better than anyone else in the way that God really cares about. This put gentiles on an equal footing. But it also portrayed sin as something interior and abstract, so you can’t escape it merely by following God’s commandments. 

    So Paul got his converts, and western civilization got a guilty conscience. I think there are benefits to both the Jewish and Christian concepts of sin. Christians have a motive to examine their consciences and avoid presumptuousness. Jews can avoid excessive  scrupulousness and always worrying if they’re really righteous enough, because God tells them specifically what to do to please him. Maybe some combination of these approaches might be ideal. Maybe a new kind of Jews for Jesus?

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    W Bob (View Comment):
    Maybe a new kind of Jews for Jesus?

    No.

    Seriously, you give a very interesting description, WBob.

    W Bob (View Comment):
    they’re really no better than anyone else in the way that God really cares about/

    Could you elaborate on this comment?

    In a sense, that’s true. We’re the Chosen People, but mainly to be an example to the world. It’s a big responsibility.

    • #18
  19. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Susan,

    Would you say that you have upheld God’s law flawlessly?  If not, you are imperfect and flawed compared to Him.

    Saying “I am a sinner” for Christians is similar to saying you are flawed or imperfect.   It does not mean that all sins are equal or all punishment is equal.  It is an acknowledgement that we all need God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Susan,

    Would you say that you have upheld God’s law flawlessly? If not, you are imperfect and flawed compared to Him.

    Saying “I am a sinner” for Christians is similar to saying you are flawed or imperfect. It does not mean that all sins are equal or all punishment is equal. It is an acknowledgement that we all need God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    It’s not the same. For example, I could say that I tell lies. But I would not call myself a liar. Of course I am flawed and imperfect, and I commit sins. But I’m not prepared to say I am a sinner. Does that make sense (even if you don’t agree)?

    I also agree with your last two sentences.

    • #20
  21. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Susan Quinn:

    So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner. I’m not making it bad or wrong, but I just don’t understand the purpose behind it, and how it is helpful to the devout Christian. I suspect it might be related to one’s relationship with Jesus, but I just am not clear.

    I think @drewinwisconsin gave a great answer already, but my first thought was that it’s not a matter of being helpful but rather a matter of being true. I’m no theologian, but I have frequently heard the word sin discussed as meaning “to miss the mark.” Here’s a source for this idea, for what it’s worth:

    The apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia,an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant’s failure to carry out a master’s orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.

    You could say, but that’s not me! I am grateful, etc. But really? Always? I am falling short in various ways every day. And this is why we pray the Lord’s prayer, to “forgive us our trespasses [sins] as we forgive those who trespass [sin] against us.”

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner. I’m not making it bad or wrong, but I just don’t understand the purpose behind it, and how it is helpful to the devout Christian. I suspect it might be related to one’s relationship with Jesus, but I just am not clear.

    I think @ drewinwisconsin gave a great answer already, but my first thought was that it’s not a matter of being helpful but rather a matter of being true. I’m no theologian, but I have frequently heard the word sin discussed as meaning “to miss the mark.” Here’s a source for this idea, for what it’s worth:

    The apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia,an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant’s failure to carry out a master’s orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.

    I made my way through the gospels, and most appreciated John’s writing. I’m a little leery about relying on a Greek definition, but this makes sense. Thanks, Lily.

    • #22
  23. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Susan Quinn: So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner

    It’s not completely unlike this mentality:

    “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained”

    • #23
  24. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    There is ambiguity. The sins I commit are acts of my will. The [disposition to” sin that I inherit with my genes comes from my ancestral heritage–Adam and Eve. So the two uses of sin should not be confused.

    Do you know the story of the woman taken in adultery?  She was about to get stoned by a crowd as per law when Jesus stopped the crowd by saying, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (In a Catholic joke, a stone whizzed over his head and hit the poor woman. Jesus turned around and said,  ‘Mother!'”).  I have always assumed that there was no one in the crowd who had not sinned. 

    Someone once quipped that the doctrine of original sin is the one Christian doctrine with the MOST empirical evidence. We really do treat each other miserably.

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner

    It’s not completely unlike this mentality:

    “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained”

    Solzehnitsyn, right? Not sure how it relates. . . We all have the potential for good and evil, and I don’t think anyone is fully good or fully evil (although Hitler comes close).

    • #25
  26. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Lilly B (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner. I’m not making it bad or wrong, but I just don’t understand the purpose behind it, and how it is helpful to the devout Christian. I suspect it might be related to one’s relationship with Jesus, but I just am not clear.

    I think @ drewinwisconsin gave a great answer already, but my first thought was that it’s not a matter of being helpful but rather a matter of being true. I’m no theologian, but I have frequently heard the word sin discussed as meaning “to miss the mark.” Here’s a source for this idea, for what it’s worth:

    The apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia,an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant’s failure to carry out a master’s orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.

    I made my way through the gospels, and most appreciated John’s writing. I’m a little leery about relying on a Greek definition, but this makes sense. Thanks, Lily.

    Well, now you’ve inspired me to really go down the rabbit hole for more on this term:

    https://www.britannica.com/art/hamartia

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamartia

    • #26
  27. AMD Texas Coolidge
    AMD Texas
    @DarinJohnson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: So I’m trying to understand the mentality behind calling oneself a sinner

    It’s not completely unlike this mentality:

    “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained”

    Solzehnitsyn, right? Not sure how it relates. . . We all have the potential for good and evil, and I don’t think anyone is fully good or fully evil (although Hitler comes close).

    I would add Lenin and Stalin to that list with Hitler

    • #27
  28. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Oh boy, do you get agreement from me on this, Susan.

    The wise, multi-lingual  people who actually go back and look into the underlying meanings of what existed before the millennia of mis-translations of the words of Jesus the Healer certainly  tell us how the entire dogma of first the Holy Mother Church and then the following re-iterations of miswordings  —  they also agree with you.

    Number One: In the Aramaic, which is the language that Jesus himself spoke, he was not “The Savior.” Instead He was the Healer.

    His words were handed down in an oral tradition, as was the custom of people who had neither printing presses or the ability to hire scribes to record such statements.

    But the preference by the human  forces surrounding Constantine there at the beginnings of the Fourth Century was to see Jesus as “Savior.”

    That way an entire litany of the overwhelming faultiness and frailty of  the human spirit could be emphasized.

    How better to keep entire populations enslaved but by telling them that they were all sinners unworthy of the very air that they breathed?

    For some reason, those at the top of the political heap that was the Holy Mother Church never were that concerned about their sins. Rather they were into the same affairs that the Globalists today are concerned with: an ever expanding One World governance. (Of course given the times that this was occurring inside of, the “world” was simply most of Europe.)

    By the time that  Charlemagne, King of Franks, and also regarded as the first Holy Roman Emperor (747–814) was in charge, his soldiers were sweeping into the area now known as Germany. In each village and hamlet where his soldiers rode, the males of the town were assembled. Buckets were placed throughout the groups of town men. Then a  command was issued: When the captain of the soldiers reached you, you could announce in affirmation of your belief of the new ways of the world, that is “Christendom,” a loud and hearty “Aye!” Or if not willing to give up on the beliefs that had guided your world since you were a babe and which had structured the world of your forefathers going back through the mists of earliest  times,  you could say “Nay!”

    Then you would have your head removed from your shoulders, to be falling into the bucket at your feet.

    This was how corrupted the new world of Christendom had become. Karl Jung, 1200 years later, would point to this atrocity as being a subconscious yet highly repressed fear and motivator which ended up propelling part of 1930’s Germany into rejecting Christ’s message of love and tolerance and then adapting to the idea of an Aryan Strongman.

    Point Two: Jesus’ words to his apostles emphasized again and again that they could heal just as He had healed. Had the political forces of Rome surrounding early Christianity not perverted the original message, the emphasis on our sinfulness would not have become the overarching message of what passes for Catholic and Protestant religion these days.

    ####

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):
    The wise, multi-lingual  people who actually go back and look into the underlying meanings of what existed before the millennia of mis-translations of the words of Jesus the Healer certainly  tell us how the entire dogma of first the Holy Mother Church and then the following re-iterations of miswordings  —  they also agree with you.

    This is certainly a different take than others have offered. Thanks for sharing it.

    • #29
  30. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Susan,

    Would you say that you have upheld God’s law flawlessly? If not, you are imperfect and flawed compared to Him.

    Saying “I am a sinner” for Christians is similar to saying you are flawed or imperfect. It does not mean that all sins are equal or all punishment is equal. It is an acknowledgement that we all need God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    It’s not the same. For example, I could say that I tell lies. But I would not call myself a liar. Of course I am flawed and imperfect, and I commit sins. But I’m not prepared to say I am a sinner. Does that make sense (even if you don’t agree)?

    I also agree with your last two sentences.

    Does your position make sense?  Well, yes, and no.

    Denial makes sense, from a certain point of view.  It is difficult to face, and admit, an unpleasant truth.  It is understandable that one would seek to pretend otherwise.  So in this way, yes, your position makes sense.  It protects you from a view of yourself that you find painful.

    I find it painful, too.  I don’t like being a sinner.  It’s terrible and shameful.  There is a solution in the Christian faith, thank God.  I don’t know whether there is a solution in other faiths.

    Obviously, though, denial does not really make sense.  Truth is essential.  In the long run, we can’t evade the truth.  You admit that you sin.  Well, then, you’re a sinner.  You admit that you lie.  Well, then, you’re a liar.  (Me too, by the way.)

    How would you feel about a man who committed adultery, but denied that he was an adulterer?  About a man who committed murder, but denied that he was a murderer?  That would make him a liar, too, wouldn’t it?

    Facing the truth about our sinful nature is very difficult.  I strongly recommend that you read the book of Romans.  Paul has a great explanation of all of this.  It may be difficult going.

    Part of the challenge, in my view, is giving up the idea that we should want justice from God.  Justice is good, and God is just, but I sure don’t want justice.  Because I know what I get from justice.  I’m a sinner, and the wages of sin is . . . what, exactly?  Oh yeah.  Death.  So if I demand justice, then I get death.

    What I want is grace, and mercy.  These are also good, and God is gracious and merciful.  But it’s not “fair.”  If you want “fairness,” then you’re demanding justice, and you get it.  Death.  What we need is a Savior.  We Christians believe — know — that we have one.

    I hope that this helps.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.