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Are all sins equal?

are all sins equal

Are all sins equal before God?

Are there degrees of sin? Does each and any sin make me equally guilty? Are all sins equal before God?

During this year (2023) I have been part of a WhatsApp group of about 50 people from the church where we belong and worship and serve, where we share daily thoughts in response to the Bible in One Year app hosted by Alpha.

Day 150 of Bible in One Year is titled, ‘your trial will become your triumph.’

On that day we read from John’s Gospel, chapter 19, and this starts with a continuation of the conversation Jesus had with Pilate which started in John 18. The conversation is very insightful, not least on the question ‘are all sins equal’?

In John 19:7-11, we read:

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’

11 Jesus answered, ‘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.’

Jesus answered, “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.”

Who has ‘power’ over you?

When we live as if other people have power over us, it is a terrible place to be.

That is the path to misery, to victim-thinking, to grumbling, to bitterness, to resentment, and ultimately to defeat.

Trials become triumphs because we realise that nobody has power over us unless it was given by God. Keep entrusting yourself to God and, as with Jesus and King David, God will bring about his good purposes for you in the long run.

are all sins equal

Notice also, how Jesus says that some people can be ‘guilty of a greater sin.’

What a revelation it is to know that some sins are greater, and some are lesser. Here is an answer to the question, ‘are all sins equal?’

For example, it’s a sin to hate someone, but it is a worse sin to hurt or harm the person we hate. In the Old Testament accounts of King David (also being read around Day 150 in Bible in One Year) David was given grace not to hurt or harm Saul (although he did hurt and harm others). David certainly thought about harming Saul, but he did not do so.

Why is the awareness of the gradient of sin helpful?

We Christians often say that any sin at all makes us guilty before God. Have you heard that? And yes, that’s true. Even the slightest sin renders us guilty before God. But it is also true that some sins are less, and some greater, in the harm they cause.

Why does this matter?

If we focus entirely on ‘even the slightest sin makes us guilty before God’ then we can think that since we have already made our selves guilty before God in our thoughts, we may as well go on and enact the evil thought because the action will not make us any more guilty before God than the thought.

That is wrong thinking.

So are all sins equal? No!

Our loving Father cares about harm reduction too. Even when we have sinned by entertaining negative, lustful, vengeful, hateful, prejudiced, or judgmental thoughts, it is to God’s glory that we receive His grace so that we do not enact those evil thoughts in our words or actions. That’s another way our trial (i.e. our temptation) can become our triumph.

“Gracious Lord, pardon all my former sins, and each day make me more zealous and diligent to use every opportunity to grow in faith, in love, and in obedience. Amen.” (John Wesley)

If you’d like to think more about building safe, vibrant communities, do read the blog post titled ‘Healthy community: how we can get along better — Psalms 15 and 24‘.

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