Yes and No!

There are two particular scriptures that show the answer to this question is yes.  One from Jesus and the other from Paul.

Jesus seems to place a heavier weight on sexual sin when it comes to divorce.  This story is about the Pharisees coming to Jesus attempting to trick Him into contradicting the Law when it comes to divorce.  When they ask Him if divorce should be allowed, His response is “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt 19:4-6)  Thinking they had Him in a trap, they ask Him why the Law of Moses says otherwise.  He responds that God gave Moses a more lenient Law “Because of your hardness of heart” (v8) but then He continues with the real Law around divorce.  “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (v9)

You see, Jesus says that the only legitimate reason to separate what God had combined into one flesh was ‘sexual immorality’.  Jesus elevates the sin of sexual immorality to one high enough to justify the destruction of Holy Matrimony.

Then we get to Paul’s account.  As Paul is juxtaposing the freedoms we have with the way we ought to behave, he gets to sexual immorality and the tone changes.  “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:18-20)

Paul clearly shows sexual immorality to have a more grave impact on us, because it is against our own body which is to be a temple for the Holy Spirit.

So far I have only responded to the YES part of the answer.  Yes, clearly Jesus (and Paul) saw sexual immorality has a cut above the rest when it comes to sin.  However, the fact is that ANY and ALL sin causes separation from God.  The tiniest blemish to the most glaring offense… each and ever one causes separation.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Because Jesus died for every single one of our sins, of any type, of any kind.  You see, even the Pharisees saw adultery as a higher crime, one punishable by stoning.  (side note… for some reason only the woman was guilty of adultery and would be stoned… not sure why the man was not also guilty but that is another blog).

When the scribes and Pharisees were about to stone a woman for adultery, they saw this as another way to try to trap Jesus.  How would He respond?  Was this woman guilty of the horrible sin of adultery or not?  Since she was “caught in the act” she was obviously guilty, so now what?  Jesus did not defend her sin, but said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  Of course not a single stone is cast.  What this story glosses over (and could be a blog alone) was that right at that moment, every one of these pious scribes and Pharisees admitted they had sin in their life. [I’ll come back to that point in another blog later].

It’s Jesus’ follow up statement to the woman that changes everything.  Despite the fact that Jesus himself demonstrates that sexual immorality is a higher crime, He responds to the woman with this.  “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)  

Now people will misuse this story as a way to say we have no right to judge.  That in fact is wrong.  We are instructed to hold each other to an account of how to act and ‘gently restore’ those who fall away.  We are to judge.  However what Jesus did here is different.  He has already judged her for her actions, but he does not condemn her.  He forgives her but instructs her to “Go and sin no more.”

So YES, there are degrees of sin, but NO, there is no sin to small to go unnoticed and no sin too large to go unforgiven.

Go and sin no more!

One thought on “Are there degrees of sin?

  1. I once heard an explanation of why God hates divorce so much. Why does He hate divorce? Because He knows what it feels like. Yes. Scriptures declares that God Himself filed for divorce. Jeremiah 3:8. God hates divorce because He’s been through it and knows the ripping of hearts and emotions and togetherness.

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