September 15 Reflections

The person somewhat smugly said, after being caught in a particularly degrading sin, “Don’t judge me. You sin too and all sin is equal.” I have heard this statement many times in my life as a pastor. “All sins are equal. What I have done isn’t any worse than what you do every day. All sin is equal.” I think this is misleading and I think it is nonsense. All sin is sin, but not all sin is equal.
Look at it from the perspective of the commandment, “You shall not murder.” Many of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought they had followed the command if they did not intentionally take someone’s life. Jesus said, “Not so fast.” He went on to teach that you must go deeper. He taught that taking someone’s life was wrong, but if you harbor anger in your heart toward someone you are also guilty of breaking this command.  He was not saying that both sins were equal, he was simply saying both are sin. So just because you do not literally take someone’s life doesn’t mean you have kept the commandment. You must go to heart-depth. When we go there, we all know we are sinners in need of grace. This is not a hierarchy of sins, some worse than others, it is a continuum away from God’s love. It looks something like this:
God’s Unconditional Love…Protect and Cultivate Life (You shall not murder)…Momentary Anger at someone…Harbor this anger, nurse it, let it build…seek to hurt with words…think about how you would like to kill that person…premeditate how to take someone’s life…carry out the actual murder… (completely moved away from God’s loving will)  Note each step along the continuum is away from a relationship with God who loves you unconditionally. At each step away you could have stopped, turned back to the Father, confessed and received forgiveness. The forgiveness is extended to murderers if they see clearly what they have done, feel deep sorrow, turn back to the Father and confess their sin. The farther you move away from God’s love the more destructive you are in community. You destroy life, families and neighborhoods by taking someone’s life. If someone hates me, I can absorb that. It is still sin. But if someone kills me, it not only takes my life; it also hurts my family, friends, community and world. It has much greater impact and damage, therefore not equal with someone being angry at me.
We are going to think about the command, “you shall not murder” on Sunday. Some passages to read and reflect on: Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-26; Genesis 4:1-12; Matthew 7:7-12
Grace upon Grace,