Are you a sinner?
My wife, Megan, was out of town this last weekend to celebrate her grandmother’s life at a memorial. She recounted to me how the pastor officiating had shared that he had full confidence that her grandmother was with Jesus. His reason why? Because of the questions he asked her when she last took communion. The very first one he asked her: are you a sinner?
It can be jarring to hear that question. Maybe it conjures up images of hellfire and brimstone brand Christianity. Maybe it feels like a shaming question. But I don’t think his intention was shaming. Shame is the Great Separator, it’s what caused Adam to hide in the bushes and yearn for a covering, it’s what pushes us away from one another and from God when we believe we are ugly and worthless. Remember that this pastor asked this question as the preparation to a meal, the Lord’s Supper, so it wasn’t meant to push away, but as an invitation to join with God and others. Perhaps it helps to think of his question as almost being the same as asking, “Are you in need?”
One of the reasons why I wonder that “sinner” is such an offensive word to us nowadays is because we spend so much time working at being self-sufficient. Consider how derogatory it is to call someone, “needy.” No one wants to be needy. We work so hard at owning a house, at being healthy and exercising, at climbing the social and vocational ladders, so we can be independent. So we don’t have to be needy. But what if that’s all a big lie? What if, in fact, we really are needy? Then “sinner” isn’t so far off.
The truth is, as human beings we are fundamentally needy. We depend upon creation to provide us sustenance. From the moment we are born we rely on others for our care and emotional well-being. Our very souls are breathed into us by our Creator, without whom we would not even exist. And yet, we spend so much of our time running from these fundamental truths of our neediness. Fast food helps us forget the time and effort it takes to get our food from the earth. We build fences and buy acres of property to separate us from other human beings. And we relegate God to one hour a week, if at all. So not only are we truly, desperately needy, we are desperate to deny it. Flawed. Sinners.
I think it would be refreshing to admit this. To say, “I need help.” Or, “I can’t do this alone.” I think when we come to terms with our neediness, and our flawed tendency to deny it (our sinfulness), we become more human. We stop fighting how God made us, and recognize he shaped us to be in a dependent relationship with the earth, with each other, with Him. Would this change how we relate to others? Would embracing my neediness mean I could also embrace yours?
In the Scripture we will study this weekend in worship we meet a man who embraces his neediness. But in the process of embracing he is transformed. I don’t know about you, but I yearn for a new way to be human that doesn’t follow the crush and rush of our society so obsessed with independence. Sunday, we get the opportunity to explore that together.
Photo by Diana Vargas on Unsplash