1. All sin is not created equal.
All sin is the same! A sin is a sin! If you say one sin is greater than another, you are minimizing sin. Well, Jesus didn’t think so. He pointedly told Pilate in 19:11, “. . . the one who handed Me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” And of course, the O.T. Scriptures differentiated between killing and that intentional and premeditated and killing that was accidental (Numbers 35:20-25). So, some sins are greater than others, the same sinful action can possess a greater or lesser degree of sinfulness.
2. As a result of hardened hearts, sin can become corporate, systemic, and structural.
It’s not without reason that Jesus was called “the friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). We see Him firmly yet tenderly deal with sin with the Samaritan woman (John 4) and later with the woman who is brought to Him after being “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:4). He’s dealing with individuals who have gotten into sin and then sin has gotten into them. We wouldn’t be wrong in assuming their sensitivity to Jesus or penitence after their encounter with Him.
But there were also other encounters where Jesus wasn’t so tender and gentle. When He went up to Jerusalem for the Passover, He witnessed the merchandising taking place in the temple. God’s desire was that it be a house of prayer for the nations (Mark 11:17), but the religious racketeers had turned it into a den of thieves. Jesus responded accordingly (John 2:15-16).
Then there’s His expose of the Pharisees in Matthew 23. There’s nothing soothing about this but there can’t be—they were Israel’s leaders and not only were they corrupt—they had corrupted the means by which people were to come to God (v. 13ff)! Christ promised to come in judgment on this sinful structure (v. 37-39) and in AD 70 He did just that!
3. Sin that is corporate, systemic, and structural is predatory and targets the most vulnerable.
At one time, smoking was a systemically practiced in our culture. When I was growing up, you could get candy cigarettes and bubble gum in the shape of a cigar. There were countless other ways the smoking was promoted (commercials, tv, movies, etc.). Who did this effect most? Kids. Teenagers. The young and inexperienced. Smoking hasn’t gone away of course, but a number of marketing strategies have been outlawed and there are countless warnings given regarding cigarettes. Even the movies we watch tell us if smoking will occur. As a result of all of this, smoking has greatly diminished.
Christ said it was better for a millstone to be hung around someone’s neck and thrown into the sea than to cause the vulnerable to stumble (Matthew 18:6-7). This is why Jesus was so upset with the Pharisees. It’s why Paul was “greatly distressed” by the idolatry of Athens (17:16). It’s why Lot was “tormented” by the behavior of Sodom (2 Peter 2:7-8). There is a place for mourning over sin!
4. God’s preferred method of dealing with sin is to keep i t from happening.
One of the things 911 taught us was that our country wasn’t as secure as we thought. The consequences of that were devastating. Over the last couple of decades, many things have been implemented to make us more secure. When it comes to sin, God favors prevention over cure—so should we.
This is why Paul was death on the sexual sin of the man at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5. The Corinthians’ complacency about this had the potential to bring about the destruction of the entire congregation (v. 6).
5. Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through Him.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Christ dealt a death blow to sin through His redemptive work on the cross. Sin’s day both has come (John 19:30) and is coming (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Until that time, disciples are committed to living in His forgiveness and working to promote what is good, right, and true.