by Yana Conner
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
“Christians don't sin.” Those were the words that floated from the pulpit to my sixteen-year-old ears, settling down deep into my heart. I remember immediately lowering my head and thinking, “I’m screwed. How in the world am I going to stop sinning? I sin all the time. ALL THE TIME! Even when I don’t want to, I do it anyway.”
To say I left church that day feeling discouraged is an understatement. I left defeated, dejected, and utterly confused.
Defeated because once again, “How?!?!”
Dejected because this wasn’t the first time something said from the pulpit that made me feel like this Christian thing was not for me.
Confused because though the Christians around me never admitted it, I knew they sinned. They were mean, gossipy, and territorial over everything from time in the pulpit to seats in pews. They were sinners, too.
I now have a greater understanding of God’s grace, but it is sadly still true that when I sin or become aware of my shortcomings, I sulk. I’m talking a “head hung low, barely able to look God or others in the face, wearing oversized sweatpants as my sackcloths and an unwashed face as my ashes” kind of sulk. I feel so sad and undeserving.
I felt very much this way the day I yelled at my roommate. There I was, standing in the kitchen yelling. I don’t typically scream at people but on that fine Monday morning, I choose not to control my anger. I heard the Spirit’s suggestion to take a breath and walk away, but I walked right into my anger and frustration. I was mad. And even worse, I felt justified in my anger. I felt entitled to express it and to do so loudly.
After I said what I needed to say and barely listened to what she expressed in response, I anxiously walked back to my room, shaking. What just happened? “What did I do?” I asked myself. “Why am I so mad? I hate being mad! Ugh! Yana, why did you just yell at another grown woman? Especially one you care for deeply?”
My head hung so low that day.
I laid in bed for hours, trying to find words to speak to God.
Over dinner, I was too embarrassed to look my friend in the eye.
I was so ashamed.
So disappointed in myself.
I had sinned. So obviously. So publicly. There was no hiding, explaining, or excusing it.
When I woke up the following day, before I could start back at my self-loathing cycle, the Spirit so gently reminded me, “sin happens, but God gives greater grace.”
Sin happened when Moses, who after seeing God face to face, disobeyed God by striking the rock twice (Numbers 20:7-11). Sin happened when David, who after being declared a man after God’s own heart, broke five out of the ten commandments (2 Samuel 11:1-27). Sin also happened when Peter, who Jesus named the rock of His church, denied him three times (Luke 22:54-62).
Sin happens, and the idea that I will live a completely sinless life is not an appropriate expectation on this side of eternity. But, God gives greater grace (James 4:6). The question before me then when I sin is how will I respond to this grace. Will I continue to sulk, or will I live forgiven?
One of the first verses I committed to memory at the start of my Christian journey was 1 John 1:9-2:1:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the righteous one.
To my teenage self, coming from a church where I was told people don’t sin, these words were such sweet relief! I don’t have to be perfect! And if I even try to pretend like I am, I make God a liar and play myself. Sin will happen.
But, if I confess my sin to the Lord, he will be faithful to forgive me because to not forgive me is to dishonor the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. God will never break a covenant he makes, especially one He made with His son—Jesus Christ, the righteous one. I can trust His forgiveness, in Christ, will hold up in court. That is, if I take myself out of the judge's seat and hand the gavel over to Him (Romans 8:33-34).
Sin happens. But sulking doesn’t fix it. If anything, it stalls my ability to move forward by humbly confessing my sin so I can be healed. And, if I fall for the “Christians don’t sin” myth, I will either lead a life of profound arrogance or profound defeat. But, if I remember the cross of Christ has made God’s grace and forgiveness available to me, I can return to God, confessing my unjustified anger. I can look my roommate in the face and ask her forgiveness. And most of all, I can move forward in repentance, believing God for change and living forgiven.
Yana Conner is a writer and Bible teacher committed to helping others think well about faith and culture. She has a Masters of Divinity in Christian Ministry and developed curriculum and Christ-centered content for organizations such as The Jude 3 Project and Pray.March.Act. You can find her on IG and twitter @yanajenay or read more of her writing at yanajenay.com.