Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Is All Sin Equal in God's Eyes?

Most Protestants reject the Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sin, asserting instead that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. To me, that amounts to saying that the sin of a child who doesn't take the garbage out like he is told is the same as the sin of someone who rapes or murders a person. Scripture confirms what I think we all intuitively know about the the difference in the gravity of sins. John's first letter provides the best example:
  • 1 Jn 5:16-17 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.
St. Paul tells us that there are some sins that can exclude a person from the kingdom of heaven (cf. 1 Cor 6:9-10; Eph 5:5; Rev 22:15), whereas other sins cause us to suffer loss but do not jeopardize our salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15). This is similar to Jesus' parable of the disobedient servant, in which the one who knew his master's will but did not make ready or act according to his will received a severe beating, whereas he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, received a light beating (cf. Lk 12:46-48). If all sin was equal in God's eyes, then wouldn't the punishment be the same?

Jesus even said in response to Pilate, "he who delivered me to you has the greater sin" (Jn 19:11), which can only mean that Pilate's act of condemning Jesus to death was a lesser sin than Judas' act of betraying the Christ. That one sin would be greater to him than another one means that they are not all equal in his eyes.

I think plain common sense provides the best argument against this notion that all sin is the same to God, but, as I hope you now see, Scripture provides some valid arguments as well.

Pax Christi,

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