Are all sins really equal?

No, all sins are not equal.

Corollary: Some sins are worse than others. Our entire justice system is built on this concept.

But Christians have been conditioned to think that it’s false.

Jesus said lusting was heart adultery. So then, many extrapolate, it must be that lusting after a woman is just as bad as committing unspeakable atrocities against her. And then . . . you’ve got to draw the corollary. That means that committing unspeakable atrocities against a woman is no worse than lusting after her in your heart.

Really?

Jesus reserved his strongest language for the religious leaders who looked good on the outside, who acted holy in public, who laid rule after rule on the backs of the people, but in secret were practicing terrible sins and refused to be corrected, who considered their minutiae of outward-rule-keeping to be their ticket to holiness. You can read His scathing words in Matthew 23.

So now, another pastor of a fundamentalist megachurch (a megachurch full of minute rules) has committed atrocities. A pastor who, like his predecessor, wrote books and preached vigorously against these very sins, while covering them among other leaders of his church. Would we dare cry out with Christ against those like him, “Whited sepulchres! Full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness!”

But I’ll flip it. Rather, do we DARE say, “Well, God has used him, and I’m a sinner too, so I can’t judge, and we have to take heed to ourselves and forgive and forget, because God uses cracked pots.” This would, in fact, be the very opposite of the way of Christ. Unless we’re hypocrites ourselves, we must cry out against them.

But are you saying we’re all hypocrites? So we dare not cry out? Because surely I’ve had a self-righteous thought?

But how could Peter and Paul, who certainly didn’t do everything right, rebuke the religious leaders the same as Jesus did? It could only be because they understood distinctions in progressions of sins. Here’s how it works out, practically:

Do you find yourself attracted to and seduced by an evil thought? Then repent on the spot, right then. Turn to Christ. I do this probably dozens of times a day. Jesus followers need to have their desires recalibrated constantly.

But do you go a step further and let that thought work out into action? Then repent right then, not only before God, but before whatever person your action affected. I have to do this regularly. Sinners need forgiveness. Sinners run to Jesus. He came to call me.

But do you go a step further and let that action work out into practice? Oh, please, I beg of you to repent and turn to Christ. Receive His forgiveness and His power to overcome that sin. Make humble, penitent restitution in whatever way is necessary to anyone who has been affected by your sin.

But do you go a step further—or many, many steps—and seek to shroud that practice behind a cloak of manmade-rule-keeping respectability that becomes more and more elaborate to cover your terrible secrets, as you preach louder and longer and make more complicated and burdensome rules and hold conferences and write books decrying the very sins that you yourself are secretly practicing? 

Then woe unto you, hypocrite, blind fool! You’re shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men. You will not go in yourself, just as you’re blocking the door for those who want to enter. You will receive the greater judgment.

Are you causing young believers to stumble and go astray, and in some cases to leave the faith entirely? Then it would be better for you if a millstone were hanged around your neck and you were cast into the depths of the sea.

Do you find that “looking good” is more important than dealing with sin in your midst, lest you lose your “show window” image? Then you’re cleaning the outside of the cup, but the inside is full of extortion and excess. Serpents, generation of vipers!

Are you willing for someone to come and confront you with wrong, even about something major? Are you willing to receive it, repent, and make it right, even publicly if necessary? If you are, then, as when Nathan came to David, you can be received and forgiven.

But if you’re not, then every disciple you work so hard to make will become twofold more a child of hell than yourself.

If more of us who love Jesus are prayerfully willing to speak out and expose the hypocrisy in our midst—and my thoughts are now especially focused on the many fundamentalists who fit this description, leaders of churches and Christian schools and universities and mission boards and seminaries—then the destructive power these hypocrites hold can be broken.

If more of us who love Jesus will move forward in the power of the Spirit instead of hiding behind “we’re all sinners,” “judge not,” “let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” then this wickedness could be cleansed from our midst.

Souls can be restored. People who have turned from the faith will see truth and righteousness and may by the grace of God turn back. Victims who have been blamed will receive the love and restoration they so desperately need.

And God may yet have mercy on some in these circles of hypocrisy.

4 thoughts on “Are all sins really equal?

  1. This post gives me a lot to think about. It presents a different perspective on why Christian pastor/teachers, etc. don’t report sexual abuse. From my experience, the most common response was just to ignore it, to pretend that nothing was happening. If that wasn’t possible, then the emphasis went quickly to making sure the victim very quickly expressed forgiveness and even confessed his or her “part” in the abuse. The perpetrator merely had to tell the authority that he had repented and his sin would quickly be forgiven. He would be quickly restored to his position of authority. I recently read some posts focused on the response that people should have towards these circumstances. What I noted was that the victims were encouraged to forgive. They were quickly labeled with negative descriptions as if this is something they enjoyed or wanted or as if they enjoy living with the consequences. Those posting about the perpetrators focused on making sure that the person was dealt with gently with the understanding that anyone could fall to that level of sin, so we should not “judge”. The way this plays out, however, is that churches become the safest places for sex offenders, but one of the harshest of places for victims. The perpetrators do not have to fear any real consequences. They can rape or molest someone and if caught, simply express repentance. Christians, in their desire not to judge, forgive with the understanding that all of us are sinners. The offender moves on to his next target.

    The victims, in the meantime, bear the brunt of everything. Not only do they have to bear the shame, humiliation, and brokenness that came with the original event, they also are expected to forgive. In Christianese, this typically translates that they should not tell anyone. They should not express fear, as fear is not from God. They should not cry or hurt as that is not “accepting God’s will”. They should not feel anger. They should not question. They basically are supposed to just completely shut off all feelings and keep the secrets. Those secrets destroy the victims. When they have nightmares and shake with the fear of the memories, they are to keep that a secret or be blamed for not forgiving. When they wonder where God was and if he cares, they are quickly criticized because we aren’t to question God. If they ever dare tell, then they are accused as trying to destroy the church, Christianity, and even God himself.

    I’m not really sure what God’s perspective is on all of this. I’m not quite sure why so many Christian leaders offer more hope to the perpetrator than to the victims. Is this God’s perspective? I’m not sure. Every offender I have known was protected by the church. Each of their victims was shamed and treated in a way that church was clearly not a place of comfort or safety. Most victims I know eventually left church for a “safer” environment. The perpetrators stayed, were protected, and are probably still finding new victims.

    Why is this?

    • Thank you, Anonymous, for your cogent perspective. I wish I had a clearer answer for why this is. The simple answer is “sin,” akin to the sin of the Pharisees. But I promise you that this is not God’s perspective–and we can be sure of that because this very sin is the one that Christ came down on harder than anything else. I’m praying that truth and light will shine into the darkest corners, followed by repentance and faith. “Mercy and truth are met together” in the person of Jesus Christ–I pray that they’ll know Him in His fulness.

  2. The main target of the rebukes of Jesus Christ were the Fundamentalists of His day: The Pharisees. And they killed Him. I think those two truths show us God’s attitude towards false religious leaders. They do get into power. They do control religious communities that have genuine believers in them. And when the appointed time comes, they are destroyed.

    Evil in religious office goes back to Isaiah. In fact, it goes back to Cain and Abel, when Cain defended his grasp of the favor of his parents and his role as the firstborn son by killing Abel so that Abel could no longer pre-empt him in terms of the favor of God. God had promised Eve that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. It seems that Eve assumed that person was Cain. When Abel became a threat to Cain’s role, Cain killed him. Cain sided with evil because he wanted the prestige of being the one who would destroy evil. He wanted all mankind to regard him as the Savior of all mankind.. And its been that way ever since with false religious leaders. They lay great claim to their own goodness, but they are desperately determined to cover up or even kill anything that threatens their prestige.

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