"All sins are equal." "Sin is sin." "All sin is the same in God's eyes."

You may have heard these phrases said before (you may even have said them before!). But is all sin really equal? I do, and don't, think so.

Let me clarify: All sin is equal in the sense that all illegal activities are crimes; but even crimes have degrees of severity and punishment, and it would seem to me that the New Testament also supports this concept in regards to sin.

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Lets look at a few examples:

If you can blaspheme the Holy Spirit and never be forgiven (Matt 12:31), then it's a sin definitely not on par with others.

If being sexually immoral is seen as something to shun more than most other sins mentioned, then it would appear that this is a sin potentially worse than others (as it sins against your own body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit etc.) - See 1 Cor 6:18-20. Also, as 1 John 5:16-17 says, "All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal." This speaks of some sin leading to death and others not - then is that not giving degrees to some sins over others?

In John 19:11, Jesus even says that "[he] who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin" and in Matthew 5:19 Jesus talks about levels of reward in the Kingdom - so why wouldn't there be levels of sinfulness? Yes, once we pledge our lives to follow the Lord we are granted salvation and eternal life, yet there is still talk of greater or lesser rewards along with that. The parable in Luke 12:47-48 appears to teach degrees of punishment for different wrongs (and the same type of message about different degrees of punishment is also in: Matthew 10:15, Matthew 23:13-15, Luke 10:13-14). Lets take a closer look at Luke 12:

That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

From this passage, it appears as though those who know what is right, yet do wrong anyway, will be punished more harshly than those who still did wrong, but were ignorant of it. This brings to mind Hebrews 10:26-27, which says "For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment..."

If you commit a "lesser sin" you are still guilty just as much as if you commit a "greater sin", much in the same as criminals in a court of law. Yet even then, those who are first time offenders, or didn't necessarily act maliciously, can receive a reduced sentence. In a similar fashion, Jesus would seem to teach that the punishment will indeed 'fit the crime' as it were, which gives me a greater sense and view of God's justice being actually just and not some type of binary black/white system which portrays God in an unjust and very robotic fashion (ie. "you sinned, no matter if it was telling a lie or committing genocide - burn in hell for eternity").

The Last Judgment by Lochner in the 15th century.
The Last Judgment by Lochner in the 15th century.

 

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Viewing God the Father as one who will judge justly and righteously, and as one who would seem to care and look at what we did before casting a judgement, gives me a greater sense of hope for those who don't know Christ's salvation, in that I can view God as opening His books and really looking at what people did before making a decision (cf. Rev 20:12) - otherwise, what's the point in checking out everyone's deeds if the only thing that matters is whether you said "the sinner's prayer" or not, or were born in the right country/continent to have heard the Gospel message - and if not you are automatically condemned to hell? There's really no need for a judgement scene, for reading everyone's deeds, for looking through all the books, if the decision is already made by God to condemn you in the worst possible manner, as it then wouldn't be fair or just.

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