Since the release of my book, Losers Like Us, I have argued that the Bible does nothing to hide the sins, flaws, and blemishes of the people within. They are too clueless, too full of themselves, and too ordinary to be considered spiritual giants. So I have used the term “losers” to describe them—and also to describe all the rest of us who, each in our own stumbling way, try to follow the Lord just as they tried.
But many people have objected to the “loser” label by saying: “Yes, I am a sinner—but not a loser!”
I began studying the Bible characters when I went through a time of darkness and failure in my own life, because I was desperate to see how God could or would use a failure like me for his kingdom. As I studied them, they became more to me than the flat, one-dimensional flannel-graph characters I remembered from Sunday School; they became real, fallible people – just like me. So I began to use the term “losers” to describe them, because their failures and ordinariness gave me hope. I figured that if God could use them in his kingdom, maybe he could use a loser like me too.
I know the word “loser” can sound like an insult, but it is not; it is simply an observation.
Allow me to explain.
To me, except in the case of Jesus, “loser” and “sinner” are synonymous.
The word “sinner” and the word “loser” have similar definitions. Both mean someone who comes up short, misses the mark, fails to fulfill the standard of perfection. In this sense, only Jesus was not a loser. He alone lived a perfect, sinless life, and compared to him, everyone else is indeed a loser (Isaiah 53:6, Heb. 4:15). After all, there can be only one “winner.” In the real world, not everybody gets a trophy.
This truth is affirmed throughout the Bible. Quoting the Old Testament (Ps. 14:1-3, Ps. 53:1-3, Ecclesiastes 7:20), Paul writes in the New:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one….
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
(Romans 3:10-12, 23)
So according to scripture, every person except Jesus is a sinner—and therefore, to me, a loser too.
If “loser” and “sinner” are not synonyms, I’d rather be the first one.
Saying “I’m a sinner, but not a loser!” implies that being a loser is worse.
But I see things the other way around. I think being a sinner is worse, because “loser” is just a human value judgment. “Sinner,” on the other hand, is a heart issue that keeps us from the presence of God.
However, neither sinners nor losers are beyond God’s grace; both are fully redeemable by him.
And on the subject of grace…
The wonderful mystery of grace makes each of us a sinner and a saint at the same time. We Christ-followers often misinterpret grace in binary terms, with sinners on one side, Christ’s grace in the middle, and saints (saved people) on the other side. We believe that once we move from sin through grace to salvation, we are no longer sinners.
But in truth, even after we are saved by grace, we still sin sometimes. For example, even David—“a man after God’s own heart” (I Sam. 13:14)—is shown to be a deceiver (I Sam. 21:13); polygamist (I Sam. 25:42-44, 2 Sam. 3:2); adulterer (2 Sam. 11:2-4); and cold-blooded killer (2 Sam. 12:9)—and all of these sins were committed after David’s life was dedicated to God. In fact, even in the New Testament, after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter sinned by fearing the opinion of men more than the opinion of God—and Paul had to call him out (Gal. 2:11-21).
So even though we are forgiven and redeemed, sin is still with us.
Salvation is an ongoing process. Jesus works every day to chisel away our faults and sins as we submit to him, because following Christ is not about achieving perfection; it is about admitting our brokenness, and then being as obedient as we can so that God can build his kingdom through us anyway.
That’s why I argue that we are all sinners, and by default, losers. I can see why some might say that in Christ we are “winners”—but I say that Christ is the only winner. Compared to him, everyone else comes in dead last.
What is so amazing is that Jesus invites us into the winner’s circle to celebrate, party, and identity with him.