Who’s the Bigger Sinner?

7 Sep

Almost two years ago, Jacob Yarborough, wrote a paper on the fact that there are degrees of sin. Fortunately, he decided to email me a copy so that I could be blessed by the thing. My initial reaction was varied. Growing up, it seems like everyone tells you things like “all sins are equal before God.” Of course, our reaction to sins is, in general, very different. The person who confesses to having bouts with gossip is much easier to integrate into a church, possibly without even correcting their sin, while the person who one time commits an act of adultery with a strategically placed person can be forever shunned.

There is so much there, but I believe the reaction should be exactly the opposite. I believe we should recognize that a serial killer is worse than the person who runs a red light. Sins are undeniably different. The similarity they have is that every single one of them causes us to fall short of the glory of God. And this recognition of differences is important on one hand, but, in my opinion, should not affect us in the way we treat those among us who sin.

Let me be clear. We should, in fact, never have any affinity for sin. As a church family, we are called to hold each other accountable for the sins we commit. Yet, someone who is willing to confess their sin, allow us to hold them accountable, and willing to attempt to mortify that sin in their life should be looked upon as the rest of us—a sinner saved by grace. Remember, that before Christ, you were unable to do anything that ultimately meets God’s standard. Until God decided to bless you with His life-giving gift, you were in the same boat.

Just because you happen to have a different sin of preference does not mitigate your reaction to the sin of preference of your brother or sister. Some will then ask, “If there are in fact worse sins, why shouldn’t we recognize that?” This is where I like an analogy I learned in high school. If life is like trying to line up on the east coast and swim across the Atlantic Ocean, just because you make it ten times as far as the guy next to you doesn’t mean anything. You’re still going to drown. You need Jesus to pick you up and carry you.

If you need more, I am not sure we have a proper view of the gravity of sin anyway. A man after God’s own heart, David, committed adultery and murder. The Pharisees were guilty of pride that ofttimes was not even vocalized. Yet Christ said they were just as whited sepulchers. I have a feeling that we would let the pride slide and really stick it to the murderer. Yet the contrition shown by David is the stuff we read when we know we messed up. Seems like we are missing something.

I think the first thing is that we, in general, just don’t have as strong of an anti-sin view as we should. We let things like gossip, pride, and “white-lying”, which are all things that the Lord hates in Proverbs 6. If we truly hated sin as much as God, I think that the fact that some sins are potentially worse than others, but when you’re talking about totally depraved people, we just have no room to brag. Kind of like a great 4-year-old basketball player believing he’s ready for the NBA because he’s better than a three-year-old, our more acceptable sins are not really putting us in position to look down on anyone.

Therefore, if you have a brother in sin and he wants to do better, do all you can to accept him while still holding him accountable.


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