“Therefore, I tell you that people will be forgiven for every sin and insult to God. But insulting the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Human One will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven, not in this age or in the age that is coming (Matthew 12:31-32, Common English Bible).
A few years ago, I would quickly tell you that to God, a sin is a sin. Just as the old adage about chains and weakest links, any of those rusty links can bring us down.
The problem is, I would argue, we want to equate sin with crime. We think that just as there are greater and lesser crimes, there are greater and lesser sins. After all, we think logically, accidentally (or even purposefully) taking a pen from work isn’t as bad as say, stealing someone’s car. These two aren’t just not in the same ballpark, they aren’t in the same league. The car, if we are caught, will send us to prison. The pen, even if our boss knows, there is a pretty good chance he/she won’t even care.
Surely, the logic goes, God can’t possibly see the two are the same. Both, however, share something in common. They both commit the sin of stealing. Though they are absolutely different levels of crime, as sin, they are probably equal in the eyes of God. The reasoning continued, if this is true, then in the eyes of God, all sin is sin.
Well, that was my logic and I know I preached such, more than once in my career. Then one day a couple of years ago, I was watching a worship service on television. When the preacher (I didn’t know) read the text, it was today’s lesson. He made the argument in his sermon that sin is not sin. There are differences. Then he got specific. He pointed at this lesson and said (I paraphrase) “If this sin cannot be forgiven, it stands to reason that this sin is a worse sin than others.” When I heard it, at least at first, I scoffed. I thought the guy didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. I now think I was wrong.
The more I thought about the preacher’s argument the more I thought, “He has a real point. One sin is not like another.” My apologies to those I told differently over the years. But, I am convinced our beliefs and understandings go through changes in life as God brings more light to our understandings.
As I continued to think about this new idea, one day, as I was having my devotional time I read the story of Jesus being asked about the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:26-40, CEB). My logic moved forward to think, “If Jesus said that to love is the greatest commandment, it stands to reason that violating the greatest commandment would be a greater sin than most of the other sins we commit (with the exception of the one that can’t be forgiven).”
You might ask if there are other sins that rank above. My answer becomes, “I don’t know.” The best advice I have is, leave it alone. If we work to stay away from sin, we will be better for effort.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved