Written by T.M. Suffield |
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
We must keep returning to the Cross. We gather there to weep over our sin and our wayward hearts, we gather to rejoice that the Lord God Almighty—he who knew no sin—has become sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5). We can be cleansed and forgiven, even from the worst of things.
No. That was easy.
Except, I think most readers will expect me to say “yes.” Aren’t we all without excuse before the wrath of God (Romans 1)? Yes, we are. Yet this is not saying the same thing.
Having been fed—mostly evangelistically—on the (true!) idea that even the smallest sin is the enough to damn you, that even the smallest sin needs redemption, we start to think this means they’re all the same. I encounter this fairly regularly.
It’s not right, as I’ll explore in a moment, and it prevents us from being able to say that some things are worse than others. We need to be able to tell people the truth.
In Numbers 15.22-31 we have “intentional”—called here “high-handed’—sins laid against “unintentional” ones, with different sacrifices and conditions needed for atonement. High-handed sin cannot be atoned for at this point in salvation history. We could, more simply, look at the way that the various Laws in the Old Testament ascribe different punishments to different crimes, clearly not everything that is wrong should be considered in the same way.
In Ezekiel 23, the prophet draws a parallel between two sisters in their sin in graphic terms. He makes it clear that they are allegories for Samaria and Jerusalem—the capitals of the two kingdoms. In verse 11 he says that the sins of Jerusalem are worse than those of Samaria, and that she was more corrupt. In Jeremiah 16.10, the prophet lambasts Judah for being worse than their fathers.
In 1 John 5.16-17, the Apostle makes a distinction between sins “leading to death” and those that don’t, which probably scares us a bit: I understand this to be the sin of refusing to repent and turn to Jesus. He moves on to say that all wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. There are different kinds of sin.
For a small aside, I’ve known people who would say something to the affect that “it was wrong, but it wasn’t sin,” as though sin only was the very worst of things. All wrongdoing is sin. Which means that we all sin all the time. Everything I think that’s not the truth is sinful—because thinking wrong thoughts after God is sin. It’s very possible that this post contains sinful statements. I don’t think so, and I would remove them if I did think so. If there are, I should repent. It is unlikely that I haven’t sinned in my writing so far, for all I’m not aware of where that would be. This is the nature of being fallen beings: ontological sinners made saints. As I’ll expound a little later, it’s also the wonder of grace: despite this the Lord loves me and has called me to be his chosen possession (1 Peter 2). I’m the apple of his eye (Deuteronomy 32). If you trust him, so are you.