Saturday, April 5, 2014

Common Christian Misunderstanding: "All Sin Is Equal"

Hopefully it comes as no surprise that Christians get things wrong. Such is the reality of a finite creature, particularly one strung through with sin.

In fact, sometimes, and unfortunately quite often, popular Christianity can believe and teach something incorrect… for many, many years. There are numerous examples, but the long history of denominations quickly proves that there has been disagreement for quite some time—and they can’t all be right about everything, even though all are probably right about some things.

Common Christian Misunderstanding #1
“All Sin is Equal”

Thus runs the thought, “You can’t denounce the sin of another because you’re sinful too! After all, didn’t Jesus say, ‘Take the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from another’s’?” and “Hypocrite, God paid for your sin, and without him you would go to hell too.” And doesn’t the Bible say that the person who breaks the smallest commandment is guilty of breaking the whole law? I had a friend in high school who stacked nickels on top of each other in three stacks, all varying in quantity; he said, “Look guys, it’s like sin—from the human perspective we see how tall they are, but from God’s perspective [looking from above] they’re all the same.” It was actually a really good analogy, but he was wrong.

Biblical Counter-Evidence

As a matter of fact, the Bible says exactly the opposite of the statement that all sin is equal:

  • “Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.’” (Jn.19.11)
  • “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (I Cor.6.18)
  • “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Mt.12.22)
  • “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” (I Jn.5.16)
  • There is distinction of type of offerings to be sacrificed for sin(s). (See Leviticus, the whole book, but especially chapters 1-5)
  • “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the dayof judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Mt.10.15)
  • “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” (Prv.21.27)
  • “Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Mt. 12.12) implying that to do a man wrong is worse than to do an animal wrong (cf.Lk.12.24,28)
  • “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has outrage the Spirit of grace?” (Hb.10.29)

So there is clearly distinction between acts of sin. At least generally (and simplified, without explaining each distinction) we can say some are outside the body, some inside; some are death-incurring, some are not; some are forgivable, some are not; some will be judged more harshly, and some less harshly; some are greater and some lesser.

Is that uncomfortable? I hope it is!

Of course you could explain away the distinctions with some fancy hermeneutical footwork, or by disbelieving Scripture speaks truthfully. Either way, it’s to your loss and consequence.

But What about the Other Side?

There is an element of truth in the statement that ‘all sin is equal,’ and the Bible does say that breaking even the smallest commandment is guilty of breaking the whole. The problem is that popular Christianity’s view on sin is so distorted and uniformed that we fail to make the proper distinctions that Scripture frequently does.

  • Yes: any act of sin is worthy of the agent’s condemnation in eternal, conscious suffering (i.e. hell).
  • Yes: an act of greed in the heart or lust with the eyes is comparable to stealing or to adultery because sin is primarily a disposition, a leaning or a bent toward ungodliness.
  • Yes: breaking one commandment makes you guilty of the whole because sin is relational—disrupting the relationship with an infinite and eternal benevolent being who is worthy of utter honor.
  • Yes: sin can refer to both an action or to a nature.
  • Yes: some people are actually worse than others, and some are actually better than others.
  • Yes: God is justice and God is righteousness, and he is just and he is righteous; he will judge accordingly.

All sin is not equal, but NO sin is good or even better. Instead, think in the categories of bad and worse. And put sin to death, crucify it as it has been crucified with Christ; live and walk in newness of life found in Jesus Christ, the resurrected.

Dignity and Depravity
Finite Perspectives: War


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