Friday, October 29, 2010

The Size of Sin

I remember a Sunday School lesson on sin when I was about 12 years old. The teacher told us that there are no "little" sins or "big" sins. He said that sin is sin, and in God's eyes it is all weighed equally. That lesson was nearly as confusing to me as the one about the prodigal son. (I still struggle with that one sometimes...)

Back then I simply couldn't comprehend that telling a little white lie was as bad as killing someone. Impossible. And what about those sins that a person commits unknowingly? How can someone be held responsible for those? Mind-boggling stuff to a kid.

Mind-boggling stuff to anyone, like me, who measures sin according to overt collateral. When measured in this way, a little white lie doesn't even compare to something as awful as murder. If you tell a lie, someone's feelings might be hurt. And if you are good at lying, no one will ever find out, and feelings might even be spared. Besides, there is a chance of fixing things if the lie goes awry, right? Just apologize and everything will be okay. Nothing compared to murder. Not nearly as awful as taking someone's life. A dead person is gone forever. There's no fixing that. Right?

When scrutinized under such a microscope, my reasoning seems accurate. My logic holds up nicely under these parameters. The flaw doesn't lie in the reasoning. The flaw lies in the choice of tools.

If you reevaluate sin based upon the damage it does to a relationship, it looks quite different. Since I began counseling, I've realized that it is quite possible for a small mistake to cause huge pain, even when there is no malicious intent. The emotional lacerations leave scar tissue that accumulates over time, resulting in a small and impenetrable heart.

If God's heart is hurt every time I sin, I risk damaging our relationship. The Bible promises that God will never leave me, that He is bigger than humans in that way, but my choices still cause pain. Pain that is neither necessary nor deserved. And this kind of pain is not something that can be "fixed" with an apology or yet another little lie.

I'm only now beginning to consider the pain I cause my own heart with every sin I commit. The way I cheat myself or belittle myself when I knowingly do wrong. The lessons I fail to learn when I don't acknowledge my errors. The feeling of accomplishment I deny myself when I take a shortcut.

In God's eyes, size of sin doesn't matter. Maybe that's because as scars grow and hearts shrink, sin lessens the relationships we have with Him and with one another.

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