There’s an unspoken agreement among many religious people that God is like a good-natured beat cop. He respects and enforces the law, but gives good, ordinary citizens some leeway. He’s not going to ticket you for driving 70 in a 65. He understands that things happen. Just don’t push the envelope.
The law of grace has you covered for five miles over the speed limit. But for carjacking, well, you’ve got a date with the Judge.
In an effort to be like what we think God is, we’ve concocted a categorization of sin-sizes modeled after our legal system. No one gets handcuffed for stealing some pens from work, but they do for robbing a liquor store. Likewise, no one gets fire and brimstone for cheating on their taxes, but for cheating on your spouse, well, there’s hell to pay. Unless you’re really sorry. Then maybe you’ll get off with time-served in purgatory.
We find categories such as petty and felony iniquities helpful for a variety of reasons. They help us distinguish between, and choose, the lesser of two evils. They show us how to keep on the good side of Jesus, the beat cop. They make us feel better about ourselves when we compare our sin sizes to others. And these categories are a great benefit for the public good when it comes time to cheer on the prosecution of someone who, unlike ourselves, has broken the law in a big way.
In other words, such categories help us relate to God in all the wrong ways. They aid and abet the puffing up of self-righteousness within us. They assist us in elevating ourselves above the sluts, the drug users, the peep show perverts, the drunks passed out in a puddle of their own urine, and all the other law-breaking sinners. Worst of all, they perpetuate our favorite, most damnable lie: that doing our religious best keeps us in God’s good graces.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Paul says. And as David Zahl adds, “But that hasn’t stopped us from comparing distances.”
It doesn't matter how bad you think you are, or how bad other people say you are, you’ll always be able to find someone who seems worse than you. It doesn’t matter how good you seem to be, you’ll always be able to find someone who seems better than you. We’re addicted to comparing, measuring, quantifying, and judging. The tragic irony is that we secretly entertain sin-envy, especially when someone has actually done what we’ve only daydreamed of doing. In fact, we often condemn most harshly those who’ve acted out the sinful script that we’ve written in our hearts.
So what is God’s final judgment about sin? Does size matter? How will he rule on the matter of our lawlessness? Here is the sound of God’s gavel falling on all this nonsense...
“There is no one who does good, not even one,” Psalm 14:3.
"Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it," James 2:10
“Scripture has shut up all men under sin,” Galatians 3:22.
“Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” Genesis 6:5.
@@So when it comes to sin, does size matter? Yes. All our sin is too big.@@
The pressing questions are not, “Is my sin bigger than your sin?” Or, "Is yours bigger than mine?" Instead, it’s the question, "Which sins are bigger than Christ’s willingness to forgive?” And this, “Which offenses outweigh the cross?” And finally this, “Which iniquities are so bad, so huge, so atrocious, that, well, you’re screwed?”
Which sin is bigger, aborting or abusing a baby? Which sin is worse, getting hooked on drugs and destroying yourself, or letting it tear your family to shreds? Which sin is too big for God to carry for you, giving up on the life he gives you or committing suicide to escape it? Maybe the unforgivable sin is going through with a sex change? Exactly which sins are so enormous, so horrible in the eyes of the Judge, that the blood of Christ cannot atone for them?
If there are any such sins, please, let us all know. Don’t keep the truth to yourself. Publish your findings, so we can dump this whole Christianity business into the trash-bin of religious history. If anyone can be so lawless, so immoral, so evil that it’s too big to fit inside the bleeding wounds of Christ, then there is no hope for any of us. Sell the churches. Pocket the cash. Go get roaring drunk in Vegas. Sell your soul to the highest bidder. If anyone has out-sinned Christ’s bloody suffering, death, and resurrection for the sins of the whole world, any hope we have of being let off the judgment hook will be left dangling in the wind.
The Christian hope we have, however, is more solid than an adamantine prison cell. Our hope is in the only One who could ever condemn us. Since God, the judge of all humanity, has pronounced us “not guilty” in Christ, then a mob of would-be prosecutors can scream “guilty” all day if they want. We can laugh in their faces. Since God, the giver of the Law, has set us free from the damnation of the Law in Jesus, there is therefore now no condemnation for anyone. In Jesus, hell’s doors were blown off their hinges and a "No Trespassing" sign stuck in the ground outside.
This is the Good News FOR YOU. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. In Christ, there are not a variety of sin-sizes. Christ who knew no sin, was made to be your sin on the cross. And in Christ risen from death, you have no sin whatsoever. So long as you are in him by faith you are free, forgiven, beloved, perfect, chosen, wanted, and treasured.
So let’s ask a different, more important question.
When it comes to grace, does size matter?
Yes. @@And the grace of Christ is an ocean with no beaches, whose waters have no end.@@