Read Romans 3:23
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (NLT)
Many of us avoid using the word ‘sin’ when speaking to those outside the Christian faith. It is also a dangerous word to use in churches. The reason being that the word is widely misunderstood. Given that Paul says we all sin, it is important to understand just what this means and doesn’t mean.
To be a sinner doesn’t mean we are as bad as we can possibly be. It doesn’t mean we are incapable of doing good things. Nor does sin simply mean extremely wicked acts. Sin is first of all an attitude. Sinful acts spring from a sinful attitude.
Sin is a tendency to go our own way independently of God. Our mindset is one of ignoring or defying God. Out of this tendency and mindset come various sinful acts, some subtle, some openly scandalous. So we can argue that even the most upright of human beings is still a ‘sinner’ in that he or she seeks to assert themselves over and above God. That person may do many admirable things, but the independence mindset is still there. And it is universal, as Paul reminds us.
Of course this is not the whole story. Once we recognise our sin we are offered a Saviour. Jesus takes the burden and power of our own waywardness on himself and those who accept what he has done are no longer defined by their sin but by their faith in him.
So in some strange way I can accept the fact that I sin, but am no longer simply viewed by God as a sinner.