A common thing for conservative Christians to say is, “I’m a sinner.” That’s a biblical and prima facie truth. The problem with it is that it sounds so sanctimonious. It doesn’t have any bite. It borders on a badge of honor. “I’m a sinner saved by grace” sounds more like an excuse than the statement of humility that it should be.
What if we replace the word “sinner” with “jerk”? I think the equivalence of jerk and sinner is pretty clear. Calling myself a jerk is perfectly biblical and, frankly, feels closer to the reality of the situation.
One of the sources of this biblical truth is St. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, to whom he writes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” My proposal would change the wording in the RSP version of the Bible (Rick’s Slandered Perversion) to, “All are jerks…”
This epiphany came upon me recently when I realized that I am indeed a jerk, as is most everyone. Yes, we are all sinners, but that manifests itself in us being jerks. There is almost certainly no one on the face of the earth throughout history of whom everyone would say, he/she is a great guy/gal. We all drive someone crazy. I suspect we all drive God crazy when He sees how we treat one another. We are so far from the ultimate goal of loving others as we do ourselves. (Don’t be fooled; you do love yourself.) Not to mention loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
If I were perfectly loving, I wouldn’t be a jerk. But because I’m not, I am.
The other problem about thinking of oneself merely as a sinner rather than a jerk is that it feels as if it lets us off the hook. In a sense, Jesus “let us off the hook” by dying in our place so it’s easy to get comfortable with that. I don’t want to be comfortable with the way I am. I want to change, grow, improve into the likeness of Christ who, though His grace does save us, didn’t save us so that we could remain jerks.
Yet, here I am…