Jesus is not playing games when it comes to inviting, including, discipling, and protecting children. His church has always included believers and their children. Recall a couple of his statements as found below:
Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:6 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Last week, I attended a conference entitled, “When Faith Hurts: Equipping the Church for Faithful Response to Child Abuse and Its Implications for Congregational Care.” It was a three-day seminar designed to alert leaders as to the real and present danger about us, the modus-operandi of abusers, the damage experienced by victims, the requirements of civil law, the duties of God’s moral law, the establishment of wise protective measures, the process of reporting, the abundance of services and ministries available for victims, how one best ministers to the abused, and how one might even minister to the repentant perpetrator. It was an informative week. It was a heavy week. I came away hating Satan and sin more than ever. I also came away longing to be a better shepherd for the families and little ones in our church. Any organization and protective apathy or slothfulness in my heart has gone out the window. Christ’s little ones are worthy of our diligence and efforts.
However, what has not changed is my desire to minister to both the abused and the abuser. For some reason, I just cannot shake this internal passion to share Christ’s Gospel with men and women of every sort and sin, regardless of their sin. Some might find this inconvenient, but I find this inspired. Yes, in the pages of Scripture, Christ offered love to raging demoniacs and religious devils. The Apostle Paul built congregations of repentant heterosexuals and homosexuals. Those guilty of incest and idolatry were found singing Psalms beside one another in the household of faith. Christ’s church is the place for repenting muggers and murderers. It is the place for repenting preachers and pedophiles. It is the place for repenting haters and harlots. It is even the place for you!
But in my personal dialogue and roundtable discussions, I kept running up against this question, “Are all sins the same?” And in our discussions, sometimes we leaned towards a “Yes,” and other times it became clear that a “No” was the more appropriate answer. Therefore, after some time meditating over this question, I propose the following answer.
All sins are the same in that …
- Depravity is Depravity — We are conceived in sin even in our mother’s womb, and this is before we have ever had our first rebellious desire, thought, word, or deed. Our hellish habits flow from our hellish heart. Our disobedience flows from our depravity. Our particular sins flow from our pernicious sin nature. We sin because we are sinners. Wretched men and women we are as we live in our body of sin and death.
- Curse is Curse — Regardless of the quality and quantity of individual sins, all are equally cursed and lost. Only those without sin can commune with God; all others are excommunicated. Only those perfectly holy can enter heaven; all others have an appointment with the devil and his angels in the Lake of Fire. Any sin of commission or omission is enough to eternally separate us from our loving and holy God.
- Gospel is Gospel – Both the sinner and all his sins can be covered by the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ. Jesus “paid it all” for those believing and repenting; “it was finished!” In Christ alone, the sinner is given a new heart, a new name, a new record, a new passion, a new trajectory, and a new inheritance. In the Gospel, perfect righteousness is granted and perfect redemption is accomplished. There is no more righteousness to earn. There is no more sin-debt to pay. Depravity and curse are both solved by the Gospel work of our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.
All sins are not the same in …
- Kind — There are sins of desire, thought, word, and deed. And though each of these are equally damnable, they are not the same. One ought not commit a sin in deed simply because he has already committed a sin of desire or thought.
- Unnaturalness — Clearly, there is some distinction between a person who eats too much, eats stolen food, and eats people. Adulterous men who engage with women, engage with men, and engage with children are not the same. As stated before, any measure of depravity is damnable, but depravity has stages as God removes his merciful hand of restriction. Some sins are more unnatural and twisted than others.
- Damage — Some sins have long-term effects while others are more short-lived. Some transgressions damage the human body, some damage the church body, some damage another person’s body.
- Consequence — Some require personal confession, some require personal counseling, some public censure, and some require penal sentence. Divorce is the consequence of some sins; death-row results from others.
- Danger – There are some who walk away from their various sins with relative ease. However, there are other sins that seem to stick until the day of death. In addition, there are some circumstances when the danger is more real than others. Not all redeemed friends are equally safe. Some, because they have nursed a fleshly habit for years, will not have their “thorn in the flesh” removed on this side of glory. These individuals, they need greater help protecting themselves from themselves, and sometimes they need greater love in protecting others from their old-nature habits.
So, are all sins the same? The answer is “yes” in some regards and “no” in other regards. The Gospel of Jesus covers all sins — past, present, future, seen, unseen, unintentional, and intentional. However, the Gospel of Jesus does not always erase the the temporal consequences of sin. Therefore, it is the scripturally instructed church that sees itself as a hospital for sinners of any and every type and brand. It is also the scripturally instructed church that hears the voice of Jesus, begs the little ones to come close, holds them in their arms, and protects them from those who would do them harm. Such a posture shows love to God, to Christ’s Family, and to the repenting abuser. Gospel-driven invitation, discernment, and protection is loving to all.