"If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world."
- Martin Luther
Imaginary sinners are people who are floating somewhere above the atmosphere - separate from the slow-moving sludge of humanity. They are clean and well dressed. They are comfortable in their first-class seats, sipping sweet tea and diet soda. Some, who are especially holy, are drinking purified water. They are breathing purified air. Our pews are filled with imaginary sinners.
But Jesus says, "Blessed is the spiritually impoverished man. He who does not have a penny to his name. Who wears rags if he wears anything at all. And who is hungry - O how he hungers and thirsts. Blessed is he who knows his impoverishment and cries out, 'Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!' This man, and this man alone, will possess the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, I will not offer it to another" (Matthew 5.3, my paraphrase).