I took my first cruise last fall, and I must say that it was the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had. My wife Debi and I had no agenda and our most demanding decisions revolved around which dinner menu items to choose.
Speaking of the cruise food, it was amazing. Not only did the wait staff bring seconds at our request, mid-trip we hit upon the idea of visiting the forward buffet after enjoying our sit-down meal. Who can beat lobster tail followed by Indian lamb korma? (Or the combination of your own preference.)
Conceiving the idea, and jumping from one dining area to the other, was exciting and fun on the first night. The second time, however, an uneasy feeling began to surface. We were no longer simply enjoying good food; a descent into gluttony had begun. Quickly, we pulled in the reigns and stopped “double dipping.”
Whether Debi and I sinned against God by letting our appetites run wild, I can’t exactly say. I’m sure we came close. But if we had continued gorging ourselves and then joined a sex orgy on the lower deck, would the two sins have been equal?
According to what I’ve read on the Internet recently, the answer should be a definitive “Yes!” because no sin is worse than another. After all, what right does an overweight pastor have to be questioning someone’s sexual behavior?
I can’t pinpoint the exact source of this reasoning, but I can say one thing—it doesn’t come from an accurate understanding of the Bible. Now, before you stone me for blasphemy, consider two specific points of argument.
First, if all sins were equally bad, eating too much chocolate cake would be equivalent to molesting and murdering a toddler. I can’t picture a just God treating the two acts as being equal.
I think we sometimes misinterpret Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) as an equalization of all sin. But if we examine the context more closely, we’ll see that Jesus was trying to convince a self-righteous audience that they were no more met Heaven’s standards than the people they derided as being “sinners.”
A warning thread runs throughout the New Testament—be careful how you view other people, because when the inner workings of your heart are brought into the light, you’re no better than anyone else. Thus, those who feel called to correct or warn others should be motivated by compassion and not self-righteous judgment.
Second, on more than one occasion, Jesus clearly distinguished between the severity of sins:
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11 (NASB, emphasis added)
According to no less an authority than the Son of God, not all sins are equal. In fact, if we follow the themes of sin and judgment through the New Testament, we find that all sin is bad and worthy of death, but some sins are worse than others and thus command a greater judgment (see also Matthew 11:20-24; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 12:45-48; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; James 3:1).
Of course, we’d all prefer that there be no consequences for our sins—or better yet—that the concept of sin be relegated as a relic of the past, invented by religious leaders in an effort to constrict and control the lives of their followers. More freedom. Less bad feelings. What’s not to like about such a scenario?
Let’s not deceive ourselves. Jesus paid a terrible price so that we might be washed and cleansed from even the worst of our transgressions, but His gracious gift of forgiveness is not to be treated casually.
We’re free to read—or not read—the Bible however we want. We’re also free to believe and do (for the most part) whatever we want. Still, we will reap the consequences of the spiritual seeds we sow.
For those who have not taken shelter in the shadow of the cross, the day will come when every thought, word, and deed will be laid bare for all to see. On that day, the God of all justice will impartially call everything, including self-righteous pride, into account.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what you or I feel about anything. The Just Judge will make the final call, and if I’m wrong about anything, I’d prefer it not be about those things that our Creator finds entirely offensive.