In presenting the Gospel, evangelicals often make the point that any sin, no matter how big or how small, is enough to separate us from God. Whether you told a little white lie or murdered somebody, the spiritual end-result is the same: you're a sinner who needs God's grace. Nothing too controversial so far, right?
Over at the Parchment and Pen blog, C. Michael Patton argues that we've taken the "all sins are equal" concept too far, and that a closer look at the Bible shows that God does, in fact, take some sins more "seriously" than others. He's not disagreeing with the belief that all sin, big or small, puts you in need of God's grace. But he says that we shouldn't assign spiritual equality to sins of very different magnitudes. He cites several examples from scripture, including the famous "committing adultery in your heart" passage in Matthew:
Is there a difference in the eyes of God between thinking about adultery and actually doing it? Absolutely. If we say anything other than this, I believe we do damage to God’s character and encourage the act based upon its premonition. The point Christ makes in Matt. 5:28 is not that lust and the actual act are equal, but that they both violate the same commandment, even if the degrees of this violation differ. This way, Christ was telling all people (particularly the religious establishment of the day) that thought they were safe because they had fulfilled the letter of the law that the law runs much deeper. The spirit of the law is what matters. Therefore, if you have ever lusted, you have broken the sixth commandment. If you have ever hated your brother, you have broken the fifth commandment (Matt. 5:22). But, again, the breaking of the principles of the commandment is the issue, not the degree to which it is broken.
Read the rest of his post for his full argument.
What's your reaction? Is Patton onto something? Is this distinction just being nitpicky, or does it have a real impact on our understanding of sin and grace?
(Via Evangelical Outpost.)