Can we be just a partial sinner?
For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not kill.” Even if you do not commit adultery but kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. -James 2:10-11, NAB
Without a doubt, St. James makes it clear that a sinner is a sinner. If we are guilty of one sin, we are guilty of the whole law. There are no partial sinners.
Sound extreme? To many, it might. Because in today’s culture, we are taught that we are “generally” good people. We are told that if we try to do good – and don’t do too much bad – we’ll find the gates to heaven wide open when we get there. But is that how it works?
According to St. James, no. If you are a sinner, you are a sinner. Period. We are not less of a sinner (or more of a sinner, for that matter) than anyone else. We are all guilty of turning our backs on God.
Let’s look at the example from today’s verse. Bill might say, “Well, I never cheated on my wife, so I’m pretty sure that I’ll find my way to heaven.” And Bill’s friend might say, “But Bill, you killed three people.” Does it sound like Bill is not a sinner?
That example may have been a little extreme, but let’s look at another. John might say, “Well, I never miss Mass on Sundays. I kept the Sabbath holy, so I should be a shoe-in for heaven.” And his friend might say, “But every other word out of your mouth was a cuss word, and you continually took the Lord’s name in vain.” Still not a sinner?
A sinner is a sinner is a sinner. There are no partial sinners. If we’re guilty of one, we’re guilty of the whole law – which is why we need Jesus Christ. He didn’t come with partial salvation for the partial sinners of the world. Thankfully, He brought total salvation to free us from all of our sins.