The following quote appeared Wednesday on a tabloid website:

Exclusive: Self-proclaimed bible thumper Miss California, Carrie Prejean, should start pointing the finger at herself for her own indiscretions. [We have] received exclusive images of the homophobic debutante that would clearly strip her of her Miss California crown. So much for being a good role model for the state of California Carrie. Looks like your photo shoot makes you a sinner too.

I am not bringing this up because I’m interested in commenting on Miss California per se (I think the media has that covered!). I bring it up because this snippet brilliantly highlights a common misconception in our society today: that Christianity is somehow about being good enough to be a Christian, when it’s actually about understanding that we’re bad enough to really need Christ.

In situations like this, I’m always reminded of two terms. The first is the “universality of sin”, which means exactly what it says: sin is universal, and every human being is a sinner. John says that, if we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (1John 1:10). Paul is equally clear on this subject, saying, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12). Thus, the answer as to whether or not Miss California is a sinner is of course—as a human being she is in the same sinful boat with the rest of us.

The other term that comes to mind is the “total depravity of man”, which is not what it sounds like. It doesn’t mean that we are so bad that we’re running around doing totally depraved things that would make our mothers blush. Instead, it means that every part of us is affected by sin in some way such that, if we were to examine each and every part of ourselves, we would find no place within us where we could plant the lever that would pry open the gates of heaven. In other words, we can’t save ourselves, because we can’t fix our sin.

Therefore we must look to another, Christ, and him alone for our salvation. Paul tells us, there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22b-24).

The heart of the matter is that we all wear the label of “sinner” with or without a questionable “photo shoot” in our past. After all, if we could fix sin ourselves, thereby making ourselves good enough to be Christians, then Christ would not have had to die in our place: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).