When I was young, I imagined myself as Saint Patrick. So Patrick became my Confirmation name. However, as I grew older, I accepted the thought of being a saint as delusional. Given the modern definition of the word, I suppose that’s understandable.
saint [seynt] –noun
- any of certain persons of exceptional holiness of life, formally recognized as such by the Christian Church, especially by canonization.
- a person of great holiness, virtue, or benevolence.
- a founder, sponsor, or patron, as of a movement or organization.
After I die, I do not expect anyone to seriously suggest that I be canonized.
Although some translations the Bible do make use of it, there is another usage of the term the dictionary does not endorse. For example, to refer to the Lord’s People or believers, the King James Version of the Bible uses the term “saint” in some form over ninety times. Look at the way the Bible portrays the people it calls saints. It does so with all their warts and blemishes. Only Jesus, God made man — our savior, lived a perfectly holy life. The saints, the believers, struggled for holiness, and they often failed.
So what made them saints? The Online Etymology Dictionary tells the origin of the word saint. It has the same origin as the word sanctify. The saints attempted to consecrate (or dedicate) their lives to God. That is, they set out to live as they believed God would have them live, and they asked Jesus to help them overcome their sinful nature.
Why did they need help? Consider what C. S. Lewis describes in Mere
Christianity. Consider the rats in the cellar.
When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.
Each of us has rats in the cellar. Every day I live I sin. Perhaps the great sinners are people who sin without compulsion. Perhaps such sin with the malice of forethought. Yet with little temptation, I do what I should not do. I will speed down the road with a cell phone, I will cuss the fool, or with ten items I will step into a grocery store checkout line that allows only seven items. Small things? Perhaps, but will God see it that way?
Luke 16:10-12 Today’s New International Version (TNIV)
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
Even in small matters, God has reason to expect honesty and goodness. So we must each work to be saintly and one of our Lord’s people.