Semper Reformanda was an important slogan during the Reformation and is now often overlooked. Its Latin meaning is “always reforming.” The Reformers may have gotten a lot right about the Bible, but they didn’t go far enough in their theology. As Protestants, we must always go back to the Bible to see where we have wandered from the truth. We often believe something is biblical just because it feels spiritual, we’ve heard other Christians say it or a major denominational leader believes it to be true. However, we must go back to the text every time.
Referring back to the text corrects the idea that “God helps those who help themselves” (Benjamin Franklin, not God). It equips us to discern whether cleanliness is, in fact, next to godliness (I have no idea where that comes from). And I believe it can help with another common statement I repeatedly hear Christians say: “All sins are equal.”
When confronted about their sin, I’ve known adulterous husbands to say, “All sins are equal, so who are you to rebuke me? Your problem with pride is as bad as my infidelity.”
I’ve heard people say that greed is as bad as abortion, selfishness is as bad as divorce and slander is as bad as murder. But are these claims in line with what the Bible actually says?
All Sins Are Not Equal
The Bible is clear that all sins are not equal:
- In John 19:11, Jesus says to Pilate, “…he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Jesus is saying that some sins are considered greater.
- In Ezekiel 8:6, Ezekiel is told “…But you will see still greater abominations.” This passage declares that some abominations or sinful actions are greater than others.
- In Matthew 5:19, Jesus rebukes anyone who “…relaxes one of the least of these commandments…” This verse reveals that some commands are lesser while others are weightier (Matt. 23:23).
- In Numbers 15, the Bible contrasts sin done unintentionally and sin done “with a high hand,” meaning sin done willingly while shaking one’s fist at God. Intentional sin is treated as far more offensive than unintentional sin.
- Unrepentant sins are worse than repentant sins. For example, someone who struggles with same-sex attraction but fights it because they love Christ is very different than someone who gives themselves over to their sin because they love the sin more than they love Christ (1 John 1:8-10).
Clearly, some sins are more offensive to God than others. Some sins are more high-handed. Some sins come from a much darker heart than others. Some sins will carry heavier consequences in this life, while some sins will hinder your relationship with God more than others.
…But All Sins Are Equal
But there is good news. When someone says all sins are equal, they are not entirely off base. All sins are equal in the sense that all sins are offensive to God. All sins are equal in that God demands perfection, and any sin makes you imperfect, thus, making you in need of a perfect Savior. The best news is that all sins are equal in that Jesus’ blood is enough to cover all of them. Whether it is abortion, lying, stealing, cursing, adultery, pride, pornography or gluttony, Christ’s blood is stronger than both the weakest and strongest of sins.
So How Should We Live?
This post offers a warning for those who are tempted to wander into darker and darker sins. Stay in the light. Stay away from things that will hurt you. Don’t allow the phrase “all sins are equal” to blind you from the damaging and damning effects of sin. Don't fall for the trap that suggests you may as well sleep with the coworker you are flirting with since you have already committed adultery in your heart. Don't buy into the lie that you might as well have premarital sex since you are addicted to porn, anyway. Lesser sins have a way of begetting greater ones.
Conversely, don’t be crushed by the lie that your sin is too great for the grace of God to cover. All sins may be unequal in the degree to which they offend God and harm others, but all sins are equal in their ability to be forgiven. We are not Christians with an asterisk. We are beloved children of God by adoption, and in Christ He sees us as perfect.