Are you a sinner?
There is a certain kind of Christianity that is obsessed with sin. In those churches there is a lot of talk about miserable sinners and the way they go around sinning their miserable sins. Sin is the problem, they say, and the solution is Jesus, who died on the cross to save us from sin so that when we die, instead of going to hell, we can go to heaven.
But Jesus doesn’t usually talk about it that way.
In the Greek New Testament, when Jesus begins to talk about sin it is most often hamartia, a word that means literally, “to miss the mark.” The other words for sin are used infrequently, and usually in reference to those who are actively opposed to God’s purposes in the world.
I was thinking about this yesterday, when I was sitting in church and someone mentioned the word sin. Suddenly, instead of seeing a church full of miserable sinners sinning their miserable sins, I saw a church full of archers pulling back their bows and taking aim at the bullseye in the center of a huge target (it wasn’t technically a vision, but when you have a good imagination it’s often hard to tell the difference). Yes, some of them missed the mark. In fact, most of them missed the mark. But all of them were aiming toward the bullseye.
In this vision Jesus was not dying on a cross to save us from our sins, but standing there with us, cheering us on. “Good try!” he said. “That was close!” “Don’t give up!” The problem was still sin, in that we kept missing the mark, but it didn’t seem nearly so miserable with Jesus there. And sometimes someone actually hit the mark, and everybody cheered.
Because in my experience church people are not miserable sinners sinning miserable sins: they are people, and often people who are doing their very best to be good people, and do what Jesus would want them to do. Sure, they “miss the mark.” We all do. But at least they are trying to hit it.
And if those arrows are love, and the target is God’s kingdom, then sin away, dear friends. We may not always hit the bullseye, but every arrow sent flying in the right direction brings us a little closer to Kingdom come.