On Sin, God, and Infinity

When speaking of sins and God, the question of “which sins are the worst?” often comes up. The answer tends to vary wildly from person to person; whatever the reply, the logic is almost always rooted in personal opinion. Well...what does the Bible say? Does it speak to this at all?

First and foremost, we must acknowledge that the Old Testament laws do seem to punish/compensate different actions in different ways (see Leviticus 5, 19, 20, & etc..). However, Jesus seems to raise (yet even-out) the stakes in this regard in Matthew 5:21-28. Therein, he equates animosity with murder, and lust with adultery. Harsh. Accordingly, Paul states in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and need a savior equally badly.

On the other hand, Christ himself seems to declare that there are “levels” of sin quite clearly in John 19:11: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

What do we make of this?

Consider for a moment the concept of infinity...a big idea, but one we must grapple with occasionally as befits our infinite God. Something infinite is something which goes on forever and ever. God is characterized as being infinitely good...because his goodness knows no limits. From Paul’s writing in Romans, we know that we are all in need of redemption by God on account of our sins. Put another way, our sin (degree of bad) makes us infinitely distant from the definition of “true good” (as good as God). Regardless of whether it is a bucket or a truckload of sin, the result is the same...infinite distance from God. So to God, sin is sin...big or little, it still drives a wedge between God and man.

Great! So all sin is equal...but what about that quote from John?

Consider the situation Jesus was in...he was before the Roman authority of his area. He had been wronged, not necessarily in a cosmic/eternal sense, but in a very human sense. One of his best friends (Judas) had betrayed him and was an accomplice in a scheme of trumped-up charges. Pilate on the other hand, was merely doing his job...handling a court-case. Though Jesus was fully God, and can thus never be completely removed from a cosmic perspective, he was also fully human, and thus prone to human emotions such as pain.

Jesus was pained by what Judas did to him. Though he knew it was coming, the expected blow hurts no less than the unexpected one. In God’s eyes, all sins are equally heinous. To man’s emotions and psyche however, they are not; to man (even the God-man Jesus), some sins strike very close to home, and it is only right to acknowledge these personal slights and betrayals as the most bitter.