Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Do you ever think about the words we use that don’t go together? Let me give you some examples: boneless ribs, minor crisis, slumber party, deafening silence, educated guess, forgotten memories, instant classic, calculated risk, and vegetarian meatball.
In the church we use a phrase that at first glance doesn’t seem to go together either. That phrase? “Sinner/Saint.” How can that be? These are two words that mean the opposite thing. For the Christian, though, it works. We are always both sinner and saint. This side of heaven, sin will always be a part of our lives. Who knows what lurks inside of us? But we are also saint. Christ has assured us of that through His forgiveness, death and resurrection. Eternity is already ours.
I recently finished a fascinating book entitled, “Mission at Nuremberg.” It was the story of a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Pastor who ministered to the twenty-one men who were on trial at Nuremberg for “crimes against humanity” at the end of World War II. Thirteen of these souls were Lutheran. Names you would recognize like Goering, Speer, Hess, Keitel. Some of these men would hang for their crimes.
This idea of sinner/saint was prevalent throughout the book. As I read, I wondered how these men could get caught up in the atrocities that pervaded their watch over Germany. As a sinner, I had to see myself in them. I, too, am capable of some awful things. If I miss this point, then I don’t quite understand the free will to do evil in all of us.
Now this next part might be harder to see, but some of these twenty-one repented of their sins, received Holy Communion, and even told Chaplain Gerecke they would see him in heaven one day as the noose was put around their neck. How could this be? Only a gracious, forgiving God can know. Like the thief on the cross, the Lord is the One who saves. The sinner is the saint. The book was a wonderful read on this topic. The Jesus we know died for these men just as surely as He died for us.
Sinner/saint is not an oxymoron in the Lord’s Book. We are both. Thank God for His love and compassion so that we are saved.