Is All Sin Really the Same?

Is All Sin Really the Same?

There are several pithy statements that people in the church like to say.  But are they true?  In this blog, I’d like to examine our family favorite:  All sin is the same.

But, is all sin really the same?  Intuitively, we would have to say, “no.”  It seems obvious that murder is not the same as jaywalking.  Both are illegal, but the penalty is much more severe for murder than it is for jaywalking.  Our legal system has determined that murder carries the penalty of life in prison or death in some states.  At most, jaywalking will get you a small fine.  The results of murder are much more tragic than jaywalking.  The death of a person cannot even be equated to walking improperly.  All laws carry with them different penalties depending upon the severity of the crime.

How do we “intuitively” know the difference between sins that are big and sins that seem to be small?  C.S. Lewis thought that we get this idea of justice, of right and wrong, from God.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis says that, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

Scripture confirms that the human ideas of justice and the law come from God.  In Romans, Paul states that, “…it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.  For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Rom 2:13-16)

Intuitively, we know that sins are different.  Our laws and experience show that they come in different severities, have varying consequences, and bring with them a wide diversity of penalties and scripture tells us that justice comes from God.

But how does God look upon sin?  

First, we must admit that God, as the author and creator of all things, is the foremost expert on righteousness and, conversely, sin.  God is called righteous throughout scripture.  For instance, Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”  Isaiah 55, tells us that God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  (v. 8-9)  

Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s look at the biblical evidence about sin.  Is all sin, in fact, the same?

1 John 5:16-17

“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. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.”

There are sins leading to death and sins not leading to death.

Matthew 12:31-32

“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.”

There is one sin that will not be forgiven:  blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  

John 19:11

“Jesus answered him [Pontius Pilate], ‘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.’”

The ones that knowingly handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities bore a greater sin than Pilate.

As you can clearly see, according to scripture, all sin is not the same.  There are different degrees of sin (“greater sin”), different penalties for sin (“leading to death” or “not leading to death”), and even an unforgivable sin. 

Why then do people say, “all sin is the same?”  

Any and all sin separates us from God and damages our relationship with him:  “…your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”  (Isa 59:2)

Unforgiven sin will lead to an eternal separation from God:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:23)

We all sin:  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Rom 3:23)

All sin may not be the same, but any sin will separate us from God.  Here’s the bottom line:

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  (1 John 1:5-10)

That’s the gospel, the good news, that forgiveness for sins great and small is available to each and every one of us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  You too can accept that forgiveness today and live eternally forgiven by him!

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