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Is All Sin the Same?

equal - apples to oranges

by Dennis Pollock

Some things we hear things repeated so often that we automatically assume they must be true. Such is the case with the idea that in God's eyes, all sins are exactly the same. None carry any greater weight or look any more despicable in the sight of our Creator than any others. This myth has been around so long and has been repeated so often that many Christians are certain it comes straight from the Bible. With a brief study of the Scriptures and a little thought and reason, anyone can quickly see that this could not possibly be true.

At the risk of sounding like I'm contradicting myself, let me first state that there is one sense in which all sins are indeed the same. Sins are all similar with respect to the fact that any sin of any degree or any type automatically places the sinner in the category of lawbreaker. James writes, " For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:10,11).

If you were to visit a penitentiary you would find criminals of all stripes, colors, and sizes. Rapists and serial killers would be there along with embezzlers and perhaps a few computer hackers. Their sentences would be considerably different. Some would have lifetime sentences without the possibility of parole while others may be serving 5 – 10 years. Some might be counting down the last few months before getting out while others know that they will live out their years and die in that place. But, assuming they all have been justly convicted, there is one thing they all have in common – they are all lawbreakers. From the greatest to the least, from the killer to the thief, they are all transgressors of the law. In the same way God tells us that sin, any sin, every sin, and even one little scrawny sin is sufficient to label us as transgressors and to disqualify us from entering into heaven and living with the One whose eyes are so pure He cannot look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13). This is why the Bible says "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," and why we all need the same forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, the same Savior, and the same new birth experience. "You must be born again" was first spoken to one of Israel's most highly respected leaders, not to some lowlife who was selling drugs to kids.

Exactly Alike?

This is accepted by all evangelicals. But some go a step further and declare that this means that all sins are exactly alike, and that none is more offensive to God than any other. This runs totally counter to all common sense, but out of what they believe is respect for Christian theology some hold this position and attempt to defend it. Often they even take this even further, and suggest that we should not consider any one sin more heinous than another. The serial killer is no worse than the old woman engaging in a little criticism about Sister Jones' ugly shoes and big feet. No secular person would hold such a ridiculous position for a moment, but sometimes devout Christians feel it is their duty to hold to this untenable idea, feeling they are somehow being true to the Scriptures.

There is no need to defend the indefensible. In truth the Bible makes it clear that some sins are far more wicked than others. Let's consider a few examples. In any listing of the most famous sins in the Bible you would have to include David's notorious dual sins in committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed. God came down especially hard on David. Through the prophet Nathan he fingered David for his sins, and pronounced judgment on him. He told him, "The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me" (2 Samuel 12:10). He also announced that the child Bathsheba was carrying would die, and that someone would take David's wives and lie with them "in the sight of the sun." David paid a very high price for his transgressions.

Let me ask you a simple question that should annihilate this "all sin is equally offensive to God"  idea: Was this the first time David had ever sinned? Do you suppose that up until now David had lived in a state of sinless perfection, never losing his patience, never doing anything wrong whatsoever? Of course not! David was very much human, and very much a man of strong passions. David was just like the rest of us. He made plenty of mistake and came considerably short of the glory of God, as we all do. But in all these other more ordinary sins, God hadn't sent a prophet to rebuke him. There had been no punishments. Indeed David lived in a place of sweet fellowship with the Lord, as a man after God's own heart. But when he sinned with Bathsheba, and added to its weight by arranging for her husband to be killed, he went over the top. This was more than the common mistakes and sins we all make. This was blatant, flagrant, defiant sin of the worst order. And so Nathan showed up at his door one day and gave him a withering rebuke from the mouth of the Lord.

"The voice of a god!"

King HerodIn the New Testament we read of King Herod who had been persecuting the church. At one point Herod was giving a speech to the people of Tyre and Sidon. These folks were eager to be in the king's good graces and so they flattered him, shouting out as he spoke, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" Herod must had enjoyed the praise for there is no record that he rebuked them for their idolatrous words. But God was not happy. The Bible tells us, "Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:23).

Again we ask the question: Was this the first sin Herod ever committed in his life? Do you suppose that up until that time King Herod had been living in a state of perfect innocence and purity? Was he some holy man who spent his days fasting and praying, and giving most of his income to the poor? Such a thought is laughable to anyone who knows anything about the history of those times. Just recently Herod had arrested James and had him killed, and then proceeded to arrest Peter, who would have suffered the same fate had not an angel appeared to him and set him free.

In most cases with sinners God seems well content to wait until after they have lived out their wicked lives before judging them and punishing them for their sins. But in this case, when Herod took the glory for himself that only belongs to God, God could wait no longer. An angel was directed to strike him and Herod's days were numbered.

There is absolutely no question that some sins offend God to a far greater degree than others. When the Lord Jesus stood before Pilate, He told him, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11). From the very mouth of our Lord Jesus we learn that some sins are greater than others.

When the prophet Ezekiel was living with the Jews who had been taken to Babylon, God showed him a vision of how some of the Jews remaining in Israel were worshiping idols. He told Ezekiel, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations." Ezekiel is given further visions of idolatrous Israel and twice more God tells Ezekiel, "Turn again, and you will see greater abominations than these." So according to the Bible there are such things as "greater abominations."

Make no mistake – any sin is enough to send you to hell, and none who are outside of Jesus Christ have any room for smugness. The nice guys and model citizens who do not believe will go to the same place of torment that the serial killers will, although not all will suffer the same degree of punishment in hell – but that's a story for another day!

Some More Wicked than Others

Some people are more wicked than others. In the book of Second Kings God says of King Manasseh: "He has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him" (2 Kings 21:11). Anybody outside Christianity knows that some people are worse than others, but some Christians, trying to be theological, lamely attempt to insist that we are all the same. We are all sinners, to be sure, but we are not all equally wicked. In Genesis the inspired Scriptures declare, "The men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD" (Genesis 13:13). The men of Sodom we not just ordinary, everyday, garden variety sinners, they were "exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord."

In basketball there are two basic kinds of fouls: the ordinary foul and the flagrant foul. Ordinary fouls are going to be committed by every player who stays in the game very long. With all the wrestling to get rebounds and the pushing and shoving that goes on when you have ten men trying desperately to either score points or block the other team from scoring, there will be fouls. If you want a nice, gentle game with no fouls, play badminton or croquet. But then there are the flagrant fouls. This is where someone hauls off and deliberately elbows a guy in the face or violently shoves a man to the ground. The punishment for a regular foul is not too severe: either you give the ball to the other team, or you allow the fouled player to shoot free throws. But in the case of the flagrant foul the punishment is more severe, and can sometimes result in the offending player being ejected from the game.

I can't help but compare this with the difference between the sins that spring from our humanity, which we all commit, and the flagrant, defiant sins that scream out for punishment. As we indicated earlier, David had no doubt committed many sins before the Bathsheba incident, but this time he was into flagrant sin. This was just too much and God could not let it pass. Certainly we would not want to justify any sin, but we do people no service when we suggest that all sins are exactly the same.

Nobody's Perfect!

The main problem with the "all sins are the same" idea is that it provides a great excuse for those who are living ungodly, licentious lives to justify themselves. If you were to try to confront the man who goes to church every Sunday but savagely beats his wife, sleeps with dozens of women, and steals from his company, he may say to you, "Well, nobody's perfect. There's nobody in the church who doesn't sin. Are you telling me that you are perfect? Let him that is without sin throw the first stone. We're all just sinners saved by grace. I'm only human after all!"

Well, he's right in most respects. Nobody is perfect. We all do sin. And he is human. But not every Christian flagrantly, blatantly, and defiantly lives in unrepentant sin. Nor should we. Paul writes, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

Whether large or small, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. And without a doubt we all need to be born again, whether a "light sinner" or a heavy one. In the book of Revelation we read, "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…" (Revelation 1:5). There are none of us that do not need the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus. But we cannot use this as an excuse to sin and live spiritually sloppy lives. As we come to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing, we must also come to Him for the power to overcome the dominion of sin. The Bible tells us: "Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:6).


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