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Penn State, Syracuse, and the Ineqauality of Sin

November 28, 2011

“All sin is the same.”  I have heard this line of thinking for most of my life.  I like the heart behind it.  It reminds us that our sin is destructive and trying to justify it as a “lesser” sin by comparing it to the sins of others is a waste of time.  No such scale exists.  But the truth is, sin knows very little of equality.  It doesn’t treat every situation or sinner the same.  We need to look no further than the alleged sexual abuse cases involving Jerry Sandusky ofPennStateand Bernie Fine of Syracuse for proof. 

Before we think about those particular cases, let me make sure that you’re tracking my exact point by qualifying what I am saying.  Any one sin, no matter how we might rate its degree of severity, is enough to put a person in the category of “sinner” and to condemn him or her for eternity.  Galatians 3:10 makes it clear that to be righteous before God, we would have to continuously keep all the laws of God and not sin once.  This means that every sin has the ability to make a person lost and in need of salvation.  If you robbed a store and the police came to rescue you for it, and you admitted to robbing the store but also made a case that you broke no other laws including traffic laws on the way to and from the robbery, they will still arrest you.  They are not interested in giving you credit for the laws you didn’t break.  They want justice for the laws you did break.  It only takes one broken law to make us a law-breaker and one sin to make us a sinner.  This is why we are all sinners in need of salvation through Christ. 

Furthermore, it is important to remember that the problem of sin is one of nature and not just behavior.  In other words, our problem with sin is not just that we occasionally commit behaviors that are sinful.  Our problem is that we are sinful in our hearts and our nature is corrupt.  In other words, if by willpower and environmental reinforcement you are able to be a decent citizen, you have not impressed God.  He knows your heart and not only what you have done, but what you are capable of doing.  Some are saved at a young age before they have developed enough to use their sinful nature to its fullest.  They might think they have not sinned all that badly, but they need to realize they have the same disease of sinfulness as the rest of humanity, including those they deem as the worst.  In other words, given the right circumstances, the disease of sin would have produced in us all the behaviors we see in other sinners. 

With that hopefully (somewhat) settled, I would like to share with you about the inequality of sin.  To do so, I will refer to the situations with the coaches mentioned above. 

First, sin is not equal in its damage.  While all sin can separate us from God, it is also clear that every sin doesn’t do equal damage to its victims.  There is a reason we are all outraged about the sexual abuse that allegedly took place with these coaches.  We know the damage done by these sins is gigantic.  This doesn’t make lying or gossiping right by any means.  In the right situations, those sins can mount up to destroy people’s lives as well.  We need to be convicted of all sin, but it is clear that certain sins leave deeper damage than others. 

Second, sin is not equal in its publicity.  What really hurts our hearts about these cases with the coaches is that we realize this sort of abuse happens a lot and often never gets reported or revealed.  Now, let me say clearly that all sins have consequences, but some are revealed publically more than others; sin never lets us know who will be exposed the most.  We know this to be true, because we have sinned in some ways that didn’t get exposed to other people (but of course it was exposed to God).  Don’t get me wrong, there are still consequences.  I have sinned in private ways in my life that didn’t get exposed, but this sin continues to ache me from time to time as I remember it.  The internal consequences are many.  Unresolved and private guilt can kill the heart like a cancer in our spirit.  But, let’s be honest and acknowledge that some sins don’t get publically reported but live in the darkness of privacy. Sandusky and Fine should offer a warning to us all.  All of our sin is subject to publicity; none of us are so covert that we can assure ourselves we won’t be exposed.  God somehow redeems publically-exposed sin by using it to warn the rest of us about our private struggles, ones which could be public in a heartbeat.  Have you fully listened to the warnings in these public cases?  There is time for us to turn away from destructive habit

So is all sin the same?  Well, I guess the answer is “yes” and “no.”  It all has the ability to condemn us, causing us need of a savior.  But, in an earthly sense, sin doesn’t care about equality in terms of damage or publicity.  It simply tries to wreak havoc in our lives.  Praise God who has sent His son – Jesus, who is supreme over sin and its curse by defeating it on the cross!

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