Post Author: Bill Pratt
So we’ve seen that the Bible does teach that some sins are more serious than others and that some virtues are greater than others. There is a moral law hierarchy. But what does this practically mean?
First, let’s look at debates over public policy. When determining where to focus your efforts on a particular law, you must consider its seriousness. A great example is abortion. Many Christians focus on the abortion issue because it is such a serious moral failure in our country. Abortion kills over a million lives every year. Taking innocent human life is pretty high up the moral law measuring stick.
Some people ask why Christians aren’t more outspoken about global warming. My answer to that question is, “The death of millions of innocent babies today is far more serious a moral issue than the possible rise in temperature of the earth over the next 100 years.” The consequences of global warming are surely speculative and uncertain, as any future prediction of ultra-complex climate activity must be, whereas we have a definite problem, abortion, staring us in the face today.
We have to make these kinds of decisions all the time. What are the most serious moral issues of the day for our nation? If we just say that all moral issues are equal, we are unable to focus our efforts on what matters more.
Second, what about the Christian life in particular? In this life, the worse we sin, the more out of touch with God we are. As my wife likes to say, “God keeps us from sin, and sin keeps us from God.” If you, as a Christian, are engaging in adultery, then clearly this sin will have greater effect on your walk with God than if you once neglect to call your mother to wish her “Happy Birthday.”
Paul taught that a particular kind of sexual immorality (a man having sexual relations with his father’s wife) should cause the expulsion of the man committing this sin (1 Cor. 5), but he didn’t write a letter demanding expulsion for someone scrawling graffiti in the streets of Corinth. Graffiti may be a sin, but it is less serious than sleeping with your father’s wife. Different sins demand different punishments.
There are also rewards in heaven for the Christian, based on her moral behavior in this life. In 1 Cor. 3 Paul teaches that the good works we bring to God after we die determine our rewards in heaven. Some of our works will be so worthless that they will be “burned up.” Those works of high quality will survive the flames. The kinds of moral actions we pursue in this life matter for eternity. The Bible seems to teach that the quality of our good works on earth will determine our ability to enjoy heaven. Again, our sins and our virtues matter for eternity.
So, how can we summarize? All sins are equal in that they condemn us before a perfect God. This is an important point to make when we are evangelizing the lost. But all sins are not equal when it comes to public legislation, temporal punishment and praise, sanctification (our walk with God where we become more like Christ), and eternal rewards. When we talk about sin, let’s make sure we consider the situation and apply the correct teaching.