Are some sins greater than others? Do they all carry equal weight?
This is a hard question for me. I tell you what I was always taught and where the verses are in the Christian Bible that back up that teaching, so here it goes; yes, all sins are equal. All of us are considered equally unrighteous before God. The book of Romans, chapter 3, verses 23 and 24 states “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That’s the easy part.
I used to find that more comforting than I do now. We’ve all messed up, full stop, and there’s no difference between a liar and Hitler. Easy enough, isn’t it? No need for a complicated system like today’s modern courts, so easily swayed or corrupted by human failings and bias. Everyone’s either wrong or they’re not.
Of course, we have an out; accepting God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus means everyone can get a pass, even the worst of sinners. There’s still some comfort in that for me.
But other times, when I think about it a bit more, the system feels a bit lacking. Shouldn’t there be more punishment for more crime? As human beings, we’re not the best judges of what that punishment should be, or what leads people to crime or sin. Even a brief look at today’s justice system shows us where we’ve failed, even with the best of intention.
Other places in the Bible indicate that God watches over even the smallest of creatures, like sparrows, and provides for them. Verses like that tell a story of a God that cares for the fate of all creation. So doesn’t that lead to some type of justice for wrongs committed against the more innocent? I’d like to think so, but who among us is really innocent? None of us knows the heart or the story of another person.
Each of us has done something wrong at some point in life, and we can’t change that. What matters is how we move forward and act afterward. So does any of that matter? Since we’re all sinners, should we bother trying to change? The Bible talks about that too. Multiple sections discuss the importance of faith and works, taking care of widows and orphans and caring for the poor among us.
Clearly, behavior mattered to Jesus, who often spoke to his followers about how to treat others, especially people in lower positions of society than themselves. It’s not as simple as ‘we’ve all sinned, we all get forgiveness and let’s move on’ and it never has been. Each of us is accountable for our day-to-day actions to one another. What that all adds up to in the end, I couldn’t tell you, but I know it matters now.
Elizabeth Backstrom majored in journalism at Western Washington University and currently works as a content analyst and grant writer in Spokane. Her background is in newswriting and features, but if an overabundance of caffeine is consumed, she has been known to write a humor piece or two. Backstrom attended various Christian churches growing up in Spokane and currently attends First Covenant Church, an inner-city ministry in downtown Spokane.
I ask myself, was I able to effectively engage this diversity, to the extent I did, because I had empathy – somehow already endowed with it? Or did my empathy grow as I continued to engage diversity, in high school, college and professionally – is empathy somehow learned?