Archive for January, 2016

Is one worse than the other?

January 5, 2016

One of the things that you quickly discover when you start seriously getting into the subject of theology is that your opinion is very likely to change on certain subjects, given enough time and reading.

There is no shortage of humility required when reading, studying, and pondering the mysterious infinities of God Almighty.

The subject that I have most recently looked at is the subject of sin itself. I have spent the majority of my adult life as a Christian and so this concept of personal holiness and avoiding sin is nothing new to me. Recently, however, I came across something that challenged a long held belief of mine concerning the weight of sin with concerns to God’s holiness.

In short, the point is this: not all sins are equal in the sight of God.

I struggled with hearing this at first. If God is holy, then any affront to his character in the form of sin is unacceptable. This, however, is not the statement made. Certainly, all sin is terrible, from murder to even the most innocent-seeming white lies. A classic verse from Romans 6 comes to mind, “the wages of sin is death.” It isn’t this point though, that is in question.

As a person in ministry, I find it incredibly important to feed my own soul and to keep my mind sharp with reading and listening to podcasts of a more theological nature. They don’t always help with the day to day business of youth ministry, but they are very refreshing for me personally. This issue of the weight of sin was the subject of one such podcast. One person made the statement that the notion of sin equality is a lie that needs to be challenged in our churches; he then backed his statement up with multiple Scripture citations.

In Matthew 5, Jesus points out that lust and hate being placed firmly in the hearts of the Pharisees makes them guilty of breaking two of the Ten Commandments. Jesus then later goes on to say in Matthew that adultery is one of the only acceptable grounds for divorce.

Now, the podcast I listened to and the author of this blog are not questioning the teachings of Jesus, but playing them out to their own logical conclusion. If lust in your heart is the same as actual adultery, then most marriages are perfectly allowable by Jesus to be dissolved via divorce. It seems that these two sins  bear different weights.

Many would argue that certainly sin has a wide range of consequences. Rolling a stop sign at an empty intersection does not scar the world in the same way that genocide does, but are they, in their very nature equal in weight and depravity to the Father?

The next point made was that of Jesus’ conversation with Pilate in John 19. Jesus, in playing down Pilate’s authority in the situation, states that, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

A greater sin? I admit there is some room for different interpretations as to who and what Jesus is referring to. The Greek verb there is singular and masculine, so I tend to lean toward Judas Iscariot being the subject of the one bearing the greater sin, but that point only matters in comparing him to Pilate. Judas betrayed Jesus while Pilate seeks to release him. Even if Jesus is referring to the religious leaders who seek to have him killed, he still is places greater guilt on them, and not Pilate.

This theme of greater guilt and greater reward is one that Jesus often uses in his teachings. Any quick reading of the parables will find some slaves are given more reward or punishment than others for their deeds; but the point that really knocked the ball out of the park for me was looking at the teachings in Matthew 12 concerning blasphemy of the holy spirit.

Whatever tradition you come from and whatever opinion you hold in interpreting that passage, at the end of all the discussions, Jesus says that there is one sin so terrible, so offensive to God the Father that he will not forgive it.

Several other points were made concerning the level of atonement that is required in the Old Testament laws depending on what laws are broken,  some sins are even referred to as abominations, while others almost seem to be a passing thought. Clearly some were more pressing in their severity than others.

Sin is a terrible thing; the call of the people of God is to abstain from personal and corporate sin and to be a holy nation. I am not somehow downplaying the terrible brokenness that our world is in so desperate need of repair from. Christ died for all sin and for all sinners. These are tenants of the Christian faith that I do not intended to budge on.

There are, however, terrible things that the world is guilty of; some make us cringe and shudder and weep in our very souls. I think this is the reason that we know in our gut that murder is way worse than lying about your weight or going 5 miles over the speed limit.

As I said at the beginning, however, I could easily be wrong. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Death threats? Wisecracks?

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