You hear this term a lot in American Christianity: backslider. It gets thrown around so often that people recognize this as a Christian term, though when you think about it, it could really be applied to just about anything. Here’s my problem with the term backslider. The context in which it is used indicates a falling back into sin. It implies that one has achieved perfection because how can you slide back into sin if you haven’t eliminated sin completely. Obviously, this isn’t quite what they mean, but it is unfortunately what it implies. So let’s take a look at what they do mean. Generally speaking, what they actually mean is that one is not acting like a Christian. For example, one who has been saved by the grace of God has started getting drunk all the time or chasing after lustful desires might be called a backslider. This person, in their eyes, is falling away and needs to be brought back into the fold so to speak. There’s a problem with this definition too. The problem with this definition is that all Christians are backsliders.
Truth be told, Christians make pretty terrible Christians. The reason is because we just keep sinning. We can’t stop it because we love it too much. That old Adam in us is just like, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” The new Adam in us certainly helps us to subdue and suppress our sinful nature, but the old Adam fights back. He wants that sin and he makes sure we do so everyday, even in the most subtle ways. So, since we consistently AND constantly fall into sin, by their definition, every Christian is a backslider. And if they applied it that way (which they don’t) they would be correct every time they used it because every single Christian is a backslider. By the very fact that we are all “backsliders” and at the same time saved by Christ’s shed blood on the cross, therefore righteous in God’s eyes, we are simul iustus et peccator, that is at the same time sinner and saint. Though we are wretched depraved sinners, perpetually backslidden until we die or Christ makes his triumphant return, we are justified through his shed blood on the cross. To quote Martin Luther –
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”
― Martin Luther