Many of us who are Christians are very familiar with the concept that sin, any sin, will keep you out of heaven, but that accepting the Lordship and salvation of Christ negates that. In other words, a single sin can keep us out of heaven, but accepting Christ’s forgiveness through the cross wipes away our sin, whether that’s just one sin or many. In essence, a single sin, whether it is gossiping or murdering someone, will keep us out of heaven without Christ’s forgiveness.
At first, it seems like all sin is really the same. Whether I am telling a little white lie or committing sexual immorality, God must see it as the same, since both can keep us out of heaven. The New Testament says it in this way: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners, regardless of the type of sin.
If that is the case, then perhaps homosexuality has no more severity and no more weight before God than running a red light. If we are all sinners, then who am I to single out anyone committing sin, however great or small, and stand against it? Why should I condemn abortion or adultery if I have envied my neighbor’s new car? Aren’t I just being a hypocrite?
That’s good use of logic to try to determine how to navigate ourselves in this fallen world. I’ve run across it many times in my life. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that takes into consideration the entire Word of God. I believe the right position is the following.
Sin, no matter what kind, is still sin with regard to salvation. Even one sin, regardless of how slight, is still sin and can keep us out of heaven. Only Christ’s forgiveness through the cross allows us to go to heaven. Thus, with regard to salvation, all sin is the same.
However, with regard to sin’s effects in this world, not all sin is the same.
Concerning how sin affects this world, some sin hurts others. Some sin hurts only ourselves. And it hurts in varying degrees. Murdering someone is worse than beating someone up. It deprives them of their life. Murder also has more effect on the victim than simply hating them in our heart. Stopping a murderer is more important than simply stopping someone from getting angry.
The Old Testament Law seems to indicate what God believes is sin and the severity of different types of sin:
- Some sin, such as theft, requires compensation.
- Some sin, such as unintentional sins, requires a sin offering.
- Some sin, such as eating unclean animals, requires separation for a period of time.
- Some sin, such as sexual immorality, requires death.
- Some sin in the Old Testament is mentioned as being so reprehensible that it “defiles” the land (Lev 18:24-28). This was considered sin by God before the Law was even established.
Paul wrote that when someone is sexually immoral, they sin against their own body, as opposed to other types of sin. In this way, sexual sin has a practical aspect.
Paul frequently wrote to the churches about refraining from sin. However, the only time he told a church to make someone leave was when they committed adultery with their father’s wife. There were inevitably people committing other kinds of sin, but sexual immorality was to be purged, which is in line with Ephesians 5:3-7. One could view Paul’s actions as hypocritical, or completely in line with how God views sexual immorality in the Law.
So all sin is important concerning our relationship with God. Sin hurts our fellowship with God. However, in this world, some sin is weightier than other sin. We should always avoid sin, but the effects of our sin on our neighbor is not all the same.
I think this is an important matter because our world wants to minimize what sin is. We should not excuse any of our sin, but we should not think that all sin has the same effects in this world.