Remember the old hit Spirit in the Sky? It had the line, ‘never been a sinner, I never sin, ‘cos I got a friend in Jesus’. It doesn’t seem likely, does it? I don’t mean that Norman Greenbaum, who wrote the song, never sinned (he was Jewish, not a Christian) but that friends of Jesus are entirely sin-free. The idea that Christians never sin would be preposterous.
But actually, it’s true; Christians never sin. How do we know? Because the Bible tells us so. 1 John 3.6 says,
No one who abides in Christ sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.
And just in case we miss the point, the writer of the letter (almost certainly not the same John who wrote the gospel, nor the John who came up with the trippy Revelation) repeats it in verse 9:
Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God.
Christians love to say that awkward bits of scripture like these have been taken out of context, so please feel free to read them in context – you’ll find they say exactly the same thing. What John is claiming – without a glimmer of irony – is that anyone who really knows God/Christ ‘cannot sin’.
So next time you see Christians shooting people at family planning clinics, committing adultery, lying or even just judging others, remember they’re not really sinning. Yes, they may be behaving immorally, uncharitably or despicably but they are most definitely not sinning. That would be impossible because they’re incapable of it.
However, Christians are all too aware that they sin (that’s their choice of word, by the way; I’d prefer to say they sometimes – often – behave as badly as those of us who are not ‘saved’.) So where does this leave us or, more importantly, them? How do they square their capacity for sin with what the Bible says here? Does their behaviour demonstrate that God’s Word has it wrong? Or are they not really Christians, not really people who ‘abide in Christ’, not really born of God?
What a dilemma. Either the Word of God™ is wrong here, like it is in so many other places, or Christians are not as saved as they like to think they are. Perhaps it’s both.
Definitely it’s both.