It’s All The Same To Me
It is commonly taught, and not just by Calvinism, that sin is some kind of spiritual disease or infection. And as I’ve shown many times before, it’s really more a case of a clash of wills between us and God, due to our having a free will, which is a prerequisite for having the capacity to truly love. But today I want to focus on another erroneous concept about sin: that one sin is exactly the same as another in God’s sight.
In James 2:10 we read, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” But does that really say all sins are identical? No. It says that all sins “break the law”. The important distinction here is that it isn’t equating the sins themselves but their legal consequences. Otherwise we could not make sense of 1 Cor. 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies.” This verse makes a distinction between certain types of sins.
For example, suppose kids are playing baseball in an alley and someone accidentally breaks a window. While everyone would agree that it wasn’t intentional, the legal penalty-- restitution-- still falls on the one who broke it, accident or not. After all, it would be most unfair for the owner of the window to pay for damage they didn’t cause. Accidents happen, and those who cause them have to pay. But if someone aims at the window and breaks it deliberately, we all recognize that this person should not only pay for the window but also be penalized in some way for vandalism. And if we can clearly see the difference between these two cases, then should we expect God to be either unwilling or unable to see it?
Sin against God is not a disease but causes a broken relationship with him. When we break his laws, we either anger him (intentional sins-- see Heb. 4:3) or grieve him (unintentional sins-- see Eph. 4:30). These are two different motivations with different results, but either way the relationship is affected. Please keep this important distinction in mind, because it affects many theories on the nature of sin and what Jesus came to do.
When the Bible tells us Jesus paid for all sin (1 John 2:2), it means he restored the relationship-- that’s what Rom. 5:10 is talking about. Jesus made it possible for anyone who wants to to be reconciled to God (John 3:16), but it takes two parties to reconcile. That’s where we come in, what salvation is all about. We are being offered reconciliation with God through the blood of Jesus, and accept this offer by holding as a personal conviction that God raised him from the dead.
So while all sin breaks the relationship, not all sin is identical. If it were, we’d have the absurd situation of a shoplifter and a serial killer getting identical punishments! And if even our flawed human laws see the great injustice in that, can we think God is blind to it?
Now someone may ask, “What about saved people who sin? Is the relationship with God broken again?” Strained, yes... broken, no. We have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, a down payment, and the One who makes that payment can never take it back. Specifically, we will lose rewards for sins committed after salvation (1 Cor. 3:10-15), but we are forever the very children of God and guaranteed heirs of eternal life with him in heaven. Once we are reconciled to God we are his forever.
Of course, anyone who gets the idea that this guarantee is a license to sin needs to ask themselves whether they are even saved (Rom. 6:2). How can you claim to have a relationship with someone you continually anger, grieve, mock, or ignore-- especially if you do so deliberately? No, God guards and keeps us who are truly his, such that the relationship can never be broken.