We Are Both Saint and Sinner

 Photo: Black Ink Sinner Ambigram Tattoo, Tattoos Hunt, Creative Commons

Photo: Black Ink Sinner Ambigram Tattoo, Tattoos Hunt, Creative Commons

Many Hmong parents see their kids as either good or bad, tuab neeg zoo or tuab neeg phem, noog lug or tsi noog lug. I'm guessing you probably know exactly what I'm talking about, because maybe you're one of the "good" ones and your parents have told you so. Or maybe you're one of the "bad" ones and your parents have really told you so. Unfortunately, the same thinking exists in the church and even in youth groups. The "good" kids are the ones who attend church every week, dress conservatively, don't hang out with non-Christians, and become a leader when they get into college. The "bad" ones might skip church, dress or talk a little more ghetto, have tattoos or piercings, or have non-Christian friends.

(And just in case you think it's just the OGs who are this judgmental, these labels are alive and well in most youth groups. I've seen it first hard, and you probably have too.)

But that is not how it should be in the family of God. We should not be so quick to label people as being only good or bad.

Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote about this very issue. He asked the question: Are we, as believers in Christ, good or bad? Are we saints or sinners? He answered it with a now-famous Latin phrase: Simul iustus et peccator. In case you missed Latin class in school, this translates as "We are, at the same time, saint and sinner."

We are both saint and sinner. We are tuab neeg zoo hab phem. We are sinners because we are, at our core, selfish and prideful. But, we are saints because of Jesus Christ's death on the cross. (More on this here and here.)

"Good" church-going kids struggle with anger, lust, pride, and jealousy and are sin on daily basis, but it can be easy to think that going to church makes them "good." Likewise, "bad" kids may be loving, kind, and God-fearing, but their appearance and mannerisms make people assume that they are ungodly. It is much easier to judge people by their appearances, when God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

For all you "good" youth out there, the ones whom parents, churches, and youth groups see as the "saints"… You are as much of a sinner as you are a saint. Never forget that.

And for all you "bad" youth out there, the ones people see as the "sinners"… In Christ, you are as much of a saint as the guy who leads worship or the girl who teaches Bible study. Never forget that (or let anyone in the church tell you otherwise).

So, next time you're feeling a little "better" than someone else because of the "bad" stuff they've done or a little "worse" because of stuff you've done, don't forget that through Christ we are both saint and sinner. That is something we all need to remember.