• Daniel Mayfield

Not All Sins are Created Equal

Not all matters of virtue and decency weigh the same. Tidying house and home is a disciplined and profitable thing to do. It's a good thing to do. But if given the choice between two persons, one with a tidy home who neglects mercy, and the other with a filthy home but dirty hands from helping their stranded neighbor, we'd likely all agree which person has a higher or weightier virtue.

Jesus nailed the Pharisees for tithing in accordance with God's law but neglecting "the weightier matters," namely justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23). Jesus spoke in Matthew 5 of "the least commandments," probably referring to ceremonial stuff--good stuff that God expects but that nonetheless weighs less than other stuff God expects. Some virtues weigh more than others.

In a similar vein, not all sins weigh the same. To be sure, all sin condemns us before God. But because all sins condemn, does it follow that all sins are equally weighty? I don't think so. It is a misconception--a principally and Biblically untrue notion--that "all sins are equal in the sight of God." This is something often touted by the person wishing to perpetuate his wicked vice, being excused by his Christian neighbor who occasionally lets a four letter word slip when slamming his finger under a sledge hammer. The perpetuated untruth that all sins weigh the same is precisely--precisely--what makes Christians to swallow hook line and sinker the pro-choice fallacy--that neglecting federal funding for impoverished mothers is equivalent to abortion. But this is far from true. And I won't digress in this space to proving how Christians are actually the central figures in the American foster care system as well as the leading percentages in US adoptions. So it is that not only is the indictment against Christians simply untrue, but even if it were true, the case would need to be made that all sins weigh the same. In fact, they do not.

A good number of Old Testament kings were praised for their faithfulness to God--their righteousness in his sight--and yet "they did not remove the high places." Noah was "blameless" in God's sight, and yet we see things in his character we'd correct in our children. All sins need pardoning--all sins need atonement--and yet, there were various levels of sacrifices within the Old Testament designated to atone for specific sins. Certain sins could be "covered" by the donation of a dove. Others demanded the choicest Angus beef from the herd. And others were punishable by death, immediately. It is simply untrue that all sins weigh the same in the eyes of God.

In my estimation, the reason for this is somewhat simple. To sin, in Biblical Hebrew, is an archer's term, meaning "to miss the mark." Imagine a bull's eye. If an archer missed the mark by an inch, he sinned. If he missed it by a millimeter, he sinned. If he shot his arrow straight into the air and a south wind took it in the opposite direction, making it to be stuck in the top of a tree, he sinned. Hopefully we understand the difference between the first sin and the last. One sin is a failed attempt, but a good attempt at that. It has all the markings of striving for perfection, though needing assistance to reach it. It is at least somewhere in the vicinity of the target.

Now, imagine the weight of some sins over against others. If my teenage boy speaks back to his mother disrespectfully, he's going to be in trouble. But not at all the kind of trouble he'd be in if he were to steal an iPad from an electronic store. Every honest human being sees the difference here.

So let's say that the central command in the Old Testament is to love God, and that love is manifested in love for fellow man. Let's not just "say" it--that's actually the center of the Old Testament, said Jesus. This command encompasses the three virtues mentioned in Matthew 23, which Jesus said were more weighty than the other matters prescribed by God. It must be true, then, that when we fail to love our neighbor--the central command of the Bible--we have failed to love God, and therefore we have sinned. But again, not all sins weigh the same, and not all failures to love neighbor are equal in weight. I failed to love my neighbor if I cursed him quietly as he walked away. But it isn't as much of a failure as if I were to bludgeon him with a stone, as did Cain. In the heart's quiet cursing, the Spirit says, "Sin is crouching at your door. It's desire is for you, but YOU must rule over it." Cain failed to rule over his hatred of his brother. So he murdered him in cold blood, after which he met the consequence.

So as I look out across the span of ideas and ethics in my nation, I do not see a perfect attempt at finding "the good." The good being the central purpose of philosophy. We are seeking after what is good. And yet everyone, everywhere is failing in some respect. Concerning how to love our neighbors, everyone, everywhere is failing in many respects. And yet some, I am certain, are failing in weightier ways than others. Approaches to a pandemic, conceptions of foreign policy, and opinions on allocations of taxes may fail if God were to look into hearts and see why such and such a policy was enacted. This is true. But those things, even if they fail miserably to uphold the central virtue--loving neighbor--are not as weighty as abortion.

Unborn babies are our neighbors. Unborn babies are image-bearers of God. Unborn babies are perfectly innocent. Unborn babies are the precise definition of "helpless." Unborn babies are currently the only demographic in the United States, which may be murdered with applause, approval of men, federal funding, and the law's permit. And there is a party and a people who on one hand tout their love of neighbor as being so grand, and yet, at the same time, they vie to defend Roe, to fund Planned Parenthood, and to permanently permit women to destroy the youth in their wombs. Of all the ways we have failed as a nation to love our neighbor, the weightiest of them all is our murder of the unborn. On this hill, I do plan to die.

Every sin will condemn us before God, but some sins will incur greater wrath and greater judgment. Yes, there will be greater judgment for some sinners than others, "for it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah" than it will be for you, said Jesus. Had that land--which God smited--seen the things of Jesus which we have seen, they would have long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes. I pray for and long for the day when Roe is overturned. I pray that God bring in a leadership to do just that. I hope we will see the weight of this great sin we're buried in.

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