Thanks to Linnea Spicer for providing this excellent, thoughtful response
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves … And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.”
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.121.
The answer to why some consider certain sins better or worse than others lies in the question itself: it is the ultimate sin of Pride, the sin that leads to every other sin and the sin that Lewis calls “The Great Sin” that led to the devil becoming the devil. Many are under the illusion that sin is merely what we do (observable, external actions or behaviors) rather than a state of being (a condition of our souls – permeating our thoughts, will, emotions and desires as well as our behavior – that has no remedy outside of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross).
Anyone can check in with the media and see that in our current cultural climate, it does appear that Christians as a large group set themselves against certain sins (homosexuality, abortion, sexual promiscuity, etc) and yet seem silent on so many other societal sins (violence against the poor, materialism, greed, gluttony, etc). Although, by the grace of God, it does appear that the Spirit is moving hearts within the church to address the latter group as of late, Christianity still seems to get a bad rap for being known more for what they stand against rather than what they are for. And yet it is within proper Christian doctrine where we can safely address pride for what it is – true enmity that pits man against man and man against God.
The tendency of mankind to justify and rationalize his behavior because there is always someone who behaves “worse” has been around since the first act of sin in the Garden of Eden. Eve took the bait from the serpent by eating the only fruit forbidden by God in the garden, offered it to her husband who took and ate it also. Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve, neither one admitting that they flat out disobeyed their creator thinking that their plan would serve them better (Gen 3: 12-13). Since that time, each human born on the earth suffers the same condition.
When Jesus showed up on the scene, the Jewish religious leaders had convinced themselves that it was possible to keep the law and essentially be able to do away with sin. Jesus’ assertion that breaking the law went beyond what can be observed externally and ultimately resides in the heart was made early on in his ministry in the Sermon on the Mount.
21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’[c] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone,[d] you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,[e] you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,[f] you are in danger of the fires of hell.[g]
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’[j] 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:21-28
The pride of the Jewish leaders was so pervasive that they could not recognize the answer to fulfilling the law even as he stood right before their very eyes. As Jesus went on throughout his ministry to declare that he himself was the only one able to uphold the law, the pride and the deceit of their sin led to the religious leaders’ demand to crucify Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus’ earthly brother James upholds Jesus claims regarding sin in this passage
8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[d] 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.”[e] So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. (James 2:8-12)
As a new believer, I remember struggling with this truth. I read it and quickly dismissed it. It seemed preposterous and unfair to me that James could get away with saying that favoring people over others is on par with murder and adultery! My pride would not let me adjust to this truth. It wasn’t until I had an experience in which I could not love the unlovable was I able to recognize the root of sin in my heart. Praise God that the love and grace extended to me by other Christians and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit was I able to confess and turn from the sin of pride that ruined that relationship to find true forgiveness of myself and of others.
Jesus came to tell us the truth about ourselves and our sin. Jesus came to tell us the truth about himself and how He is the answer to our incurable, sinful disease. May he continue to free all of us from the constraints of sin and allow us to step into the freedom he continually offers.