Why are we sinners? The easy answer is to say that we are all sinners, heirs of the original sin, and that we simply cannot help ourselves, but the easy answer is unsatisfying, for we know that we do things that we could help, but don't.
Paul himself said it, and it remains true in most of us to this day: what I want to do, I do not do, but what I do not want to do, this I do.
And so, we are sinners. We know it. But why? Why do we do the things we do not want to do?
Although it is not the easy answer, the answer is not so difficult at all. The truth is that most of us, to one degree or another, feel unworthy, although we couldn't quite place our finger on why it is that we feel this way. We are, after all, "good" persons. We do "good" things. We live "good" lives. Most of us are not murderers or thieves or even that significant of liars, although we all bend the truth at one time or another. Yet, there is something nagging in our souls that tells us that we are unworthy, that there is still something missing from who we are, that in spite of our "good" lives, something in us is not quite as "good" as we pretend it to be.
This is magnified in the Christian, for we hold within us another truth - namely, that God Himself has said that we are worthy. He lived and died for us. He welcomes us with open arms. He forgives us, even when we fail to forgive ourselves or even to believe that we stand in need of forgiveness. Grace is an amazing thing, but it, too, gnaws at our knowing souls, eats at those places where we know that we are unworthy.
And, of course, for many of us, this unworthiness digs much deeper even unto self-hatred. We hate who we are, although we could never quite say why it is that we hate ourselves. Again, we are decent persons. Good persons, even. We live good, decent lives. We have good, decent things. We do good, decent works. Yet still, we eat away at ourselves because we know we are not purely good, not purely decent.
It's called cognitive dissonance. It's that irreconcilable feeling we get when we try to hold two contradictory ideas as true at the same time. In this case, that we are unworthy and somehow worthy at the same time. That we are broken, but whole. That we are failures, but treasures. It is pure agony.
In order to ease this tension, this dissonance - in order to reconcile the irreconcilable - we sin. Not a "big" sin; just a little one. Just enough to give us some meaningful reason to hate ourselves, some reason to know for sure we are unworthy. Some satisfactory response to give to the ache and the whisper that tells us that we are not enough.
What we didn't know yesterday when we felt it, we know today - we are unworthy because we are sinners. Look at that horrible, God-dishonoring thing that I did last night; it is proof enough. It is no wonder that I feel unworthy. There really is something detestable about me.
It puts some of the uneasiness into our own hands. If I know for certain that I am a sinner and that my uneasiness about myself comes from my sin, then it seems easy enough that I should simply stop sinning and the feeling will go away. It doesn't, of course, and I find myself in the same trap as before - feeling unworthy, but not knowing why, yet holding onto grace and trying to resolve the dissonance in my soul, which leads me to sin all over again so that, at the very least, I can tell you why I am a disgrace. I can put some reason to it.
I say that we could perhaps cut at least 75% of the sin out of our lives, if not more, if we were not trying to prove our own despicableness to ourselves.
What I want to do, I do not do, but what I do not want to do, this I do, in order that I might become the person that I do not want to be but believe that I am anyway.
We should say that this doesn't actually solve the problem. It doesn't really resolve the tension, this sinning. For what does it truly matter whether I am a sinner or simply feel like one, at least insofar as it comes to grace? If I am a sinner, it is still true that I am both unworthy and worthy at the same time, and all I have done is to create a bigger chasm between who I believe that I am and who God tells me that I am.
All it has done is attempt to make one just as true as the other, but it will never be this way. Though I sin, I am never more a sinner than I am a child of God. Never. I am never more broken than I am healed. I am never more a failure than a treasure. I am never more mine than His.
Neither are you.
Neither are you.
Why are we sinners? Perhaps that is the wrong question to ask. Maybe what we need to be asking ourselves is not why we feel so unworthy, but why He loves us so. What if we lived into that a little more? To what great things would it inspire us?