Question: An unbelieving friend of mine recently asked me if I ever said a bad word and I said, “Yes, I have”. He acted so surprised. Now he doubts that I’m a real Christian and thinks I’m a hypocrite. How do I explain to him that’s not true and that even Christians still sin?
Answer: I’m very excited to answer this question because I think you have a golden opportunity to share Christ with someone who doesn’t yet know Him. There is an incredible misconception among the world and often even among Christians about what it means to be a Christian. People often assume that being a Christian means you no longer do anything wrong and that you frown at everyone else who does wrong things. But, people naturally recognize that never doing anything wrong is impossible. Thus, the assumption is made that anyone who claims to be a Christian must also be a hypocrite because they are claiming that they never sin even though they do sin. As I said, this is a false perception of what it means to be Christian.
When Jesus first begins his ministry in the book of Mark he says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). This is the message of salvation. Believe the gospel that Jesus Christ’s death was sufficient and that because of Him we are made right with God (2 Cor. 5:21). Then repent of your sins and perform works “consistent with repentance” (Matt. 3:8) as evidence of the legitimacy of your faith (Jas. 2:14-17). [It is important to recognize that repentance doesn’t save anyone; faith does. But, repentance is always the fruit of genuine faith and gives us confidence in our salvation] This is how one becomes a Christian. But what most people fail to realize is that this is what it means to live as a Christian as well. Repenting and believing isn’t something you only have to do once and then you coast through the rest of your life without giving sin a second thought. Some people think that being a Christian means you do nice things for people and are always happy, but in reality the most Christian thing you can do is confess your sins, repent of them, and believe the gospel, that Jesus Christ has saved you from the penalty of your sins, He is currently saving you from the power of sin, and in the future he will save you from the presence of all sin.
The apostle John gives this advice to fellow believers to continue confessing their sins and believing that Christ saves (1 Jn. 1:9). It is important to note that in the previous verse John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). James also teaches that confession is an integral part of the Christian life (Jas. 5:16).
So to your friend who has confronted you, I would explain that being a Christian doesn’t mean you have never sinned or never will sin. That is absurd. It does mean however that you seek to live a life that is honoring to God and it is one that is most notably marked by confessing your sins to God and others as well as repenting and believing Christ’s ability to save you and change you.