Have you heard people say that all sins (i.e. wrongdoings) are the same, or equal, before God? Is this notion true?
This notion may come from Paul’s statement in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). It may also come from the reality that we are all, without exception, sinners in need of salvation (Rom. 3:23). The idea that a person who tries to keep the Old Testament Law, and breaks just one command, is guilty of breaking the whole Law, adds to this uncompromising picture (Jas 2:10; cf. Gal. 3:10).
Our society, however, recognises that murder is a much more serious offense than, say, forgetting to return a library book on time. Consequently, healthy societies punish culprits in proportion to the severity of their wrongdoing, and sometimes they even let the wrongdoer go with just a warning or reprimand. If we can recognise a difference between the severity and consequences of various wrongdoings, certainly God can too. Is God less just or less merciful than we are?
I’m not so sure that all sins are the same or equal to God. In the Old Testament we see that there are sins that God immediately dealt with and punished, but others that he seemed to overlook and ignore. Perhaps the most clear evidence that God does not regard all sin as equal, however, is this statement in 1 John 5:17: “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” (Italics added) John’s statement here seems to contradict a common understanding of Paul’s statement in Romans 6:23.
Since Jesus atoned for our sins and brings salvation, it is largely irrelevant whether all sins are equal or if only some sins lead to death. So I propose we get rid of the meaningless, and possibly incorrect, notion that all sins are equal in God’s eyes and focus instead at the wonder and truth of his salvation freely offered to all.
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:22-26 (cf. Acts 13:38-39; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 1:9, etc.)
These verses also indicate that there a different degrees of sin and different kinds of sin: Matt. 11:21-22; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:46-48; 1 Cor. 6:18; 2 Peter 2:20-21. There are also different degrees of responsibility and accountability (Luke 12:48).