Are all sins the same before God?

Ted Grimsrud—January 27, 2012

In the Introduction to Theology class yesterday, I asked students to share questions they have about God. Some common themes came up: Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? How could it be that a merciful God would send people to hell for eternal punishment? Are all sins the same before God?

For some reason, this third question got my attention. I have heard this kind of thing often, but some reason I was struck at that moment in class with the need to try to understand better why someone would think all sins might be the same.

So, we ended up with a pretty lively discussion. But I wasn’t really much more enlightened afterward than I had been before. It struck me as terribly counter-intuitive to imagine that “all sins are the same”—not to mention potentially pretty problematic in terms of human behavior and spirituality.

It turned out that several students spoke up indicating that they definitely believe this idea. The student who raised the question wasn’t sure she still believes it, but when I asked why she would ever have believed it, she kind of shrugged and said, “This is what I was taught.” Another student said that it was what she was taught, too, and that she still believed it—“It says something somewhere in the Bible that this is true.”

We talked about how in our lives we would tend to see some sins as different than others. We would all rather be lied to than murdered! So, I was puzzled what gives this idea of the equality of sins traction. Now, in this class most of the students are fairly new to college and new to theology as a subject for study. Just about all are Christians and churchgoers, but their beliefs tend to be mostly things they have inherited. I expect in a couple of years, they will be thinking with much more self-awareness about their Christian convictions. Continue reading “Are all sins the same before God?”