I was recently asked a number of questions about comments that were made to an article about a pastor in the SBC who had preached a sermon in response to his son’s revealing that he was gay. You can find the article here, though my responses to the comments may have very little to do with the original article, at least not directly.
Comment #1: No sin is greater than any other unless it is suicide or blasphemy if I’m not mistaken. And I believe Jesus said, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I’m straight but I swear, drink alcohol, fight sometimes, watch porn etc. I don’t judge other peoples sins. I am a Christian. And I would like to point out that the way of thinking that I just described is not progressive. Puritans made many Christians think certain ways that they shouldn’t have. Well Puritans, Catholicism, and the entire Victorian age really.
My response: This comment comes from a well-intentioned, but confused individual. Virtually every sentence has something to be commended but also something seriously wrong with it, so I’ll be taking each one individually and then try to wrap the whole thing up at the end.
The Bible tells us that some sins are definitely worse than other sins. For example, people who put themselves forward to be teachers in the church, but who don’t honor God with their lives will be held to a greater judgement. The standard of life for a teacher is higher than for others and consequently, so is the judgement. You can read about it in James 3:1ff.
Another example, found in John 19, when Jesus was about to be hung on the cross and Pilate tried to get Jesus to defend himself, Pilate said, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:10–11). So, Pilate’s sin was at one level, but the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate in the first place were in for a much harder time with God when the time came.
On another level, we all know that some sins involve other people and some sins involve lots of other people. So, a fellow who looks at porn, alone in his bedroom is sinning, but that sin isn’t nearly as heinous as a man who kills 13 people in a coffee shop. That just makes sense.
Where our friend had it a little bit right was that even though there are different size sins, with different levels of judgement, all sin receives condemnation. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 5:33), for example. The obvious question that arises from this is if all sin receives death and condemnation, how can the punishment be worse in Hell? I don’t know the answer to that question, but the Bible is clear that Hell is not the same for everyone and we all have to give an account for what we’ve done (e.g. Mt. 12:36).
Another area where he was a little bit right was that everyone sins. This is true for two reasons: first, we all came from Adam and “in Adam all sinned” (Rom. 5:12ff; 1 Cor. 15:22). Second, we have all sinned on our own (Rom. 3:23). So, if it were up to us, everyone should be going to Hell. But the Bible also tells us that God sent Jesus to be punished for our sins so that when we put our trust in his life, death, resurrection, and Lordship, we can be saved from the result of our sins.
The second sentence in the comment really has no traction in this event at all. It is just a sentence that people throw out when they want to end a conversation. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” comes from John 8:7. The context there has Jesus teaching a Bible study when a group of men brought a woman to him, who they said had just been caught in adultery. According to the Law of Moses, when a couple was caught in adultery, they were both to be taken out and stoned (Lev. 20:10). These folks didn’t have the man, thus it was clearly a ploy to try to trap Jesus in some way (8:4). But Jesus saw through the ruse and challenged them by telling them to go ahead and throw a stone at her. They all knew that they couldn’t kill her without the man, so they slowly drifted off. Consequently, Jesus let the woman go with an exhortation to not sin again (8:11). So, Jesus wasn’t saying, “don’t obey the law,” he was saying do obey the law, just obey the whole law.
The verse that most people quote in this situation is Matthew 7:1, which says, “Judge not lest you be judged.” I believe this is the verse our commenter was alluding to when he said, “I don’t judge other people’s sins.” And in a funny way, he was being consistent with the actual passage that “judge not lest you be judged” comes from. After saying this, Jesus went on to say that with the same judgment you use on someone else, God will judge you. Our commenter mentioned that he is “straight but I swear, drink alcohol, fight sometimes, watch porn etc.” and what he is actually saying is that he doesn’t judge others for their sins because he is up to his neck in his own sin. In one sense, this is consistent with what Jesus was saying, except for the fact that it isn’t what Jesus was actually saying.
Jesus went on and said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3–5). What Jesus is saying here isn’t don’t judge if you aren’t going to stop your own sinning. He wasn’t giving license to staying in our sin. He said stop your own sin and then you can judge your brother. Stop sinning, then judge. Do judge, but do it with right motives.
I’m not sure what the second half of the commenter’s comment meant. Most people think they have proved their point if they slam a Puritan or two, or mention the Catholics or the Victorians, but I’m not even sure what he was meaning. He also mentioned being or not being progressive, but I’m not sure I get that either.
To sum up, this commenter was happy with the pastor’s love for his son, but it wasn’t because the father loved the son, but because the father got on board with condoning and embracing the son’s sin. This is what the commenter was doing as well. If we can all just agree that doing whatever you want to do is okay because it is what you want to do, then everything will be good. The problem is that that isn’t how God made the world. When we try to live our lives in a way that is inconsistent with the way God made the world, things fall apart. In the end, God does exist and he has revealed his desires for how we ought to be living with him and with one another. He has also let us know what the consequences will be if we choose to live in another way. And finally, he has revealed his Son to us as the answer to the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.
Oh, one last thing. There isn’t anything in this commenter’s comment that makes me think he really is a Christian, other than that he says he is. But saying it, don’t make it so. Jesus also said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:18–21).