Why do some Christians say “all sins are equally bad” and “everyone is equally guilty”?

Young women very supportive of premarital sex
Young women very supportive of premarital sex

We were having a discussion about whether the Bible teaches that sex before marriage is morally wrong, and someone said “impure thoughts counts as adultery… there isn’t a virgin among us”.

Regarding her point that lust is equal to adultery, and so no one is really a virgin, here’s Ligonier Ministries:

In demonstrating that the seventh commandment was given also to prohibit lust, Jesus is not somehow saying that an unconsummated lustful intent is sinful to the same degree as an actual extramarital affair (though both sins merit punishment). The latter is a more blatant violation of the statute against adultery, and it has greater consequences in the form of divorce and the loss of one’s reputation as a trustworthy person.

Any serious student of the Bible is aware of Jesus’ tendency to exaggerate / use hyperbole.

Also, 1 Corinthians 7 says that wives are not supposed to make a habit of denying their husbands sex. Sex withholding is more of an epidemic today than pornography, and it should also be on the adultery spectrum. It isn’t as bad as adultery, but it definitely breaks the marital covenant.

So why would someone say that lust is the same as adultery, and that there is no such thing as a virgin?

Dr. Michael Krueger recently blogged about this “all sins are equal” view.

Krueger says this:

First, to say all sins are the same is to confuse the effect of sin with the heinousness of sin. While all sins are equal in their effect (they separate us from God), they are not all equally heinous.

Second, the Bible differentiates between sins. Some sins are more severe in terms of impact (1 Cor 6:18), in terms of culpability (Rom 1:21-32), and in terms of the judgment warranted (2 Pet 2:17; Mark 9:42; James 3:1).

Krueger explains the motivation behind the slogans:

[S]ome Christians… use this phrase as way to “flatten out” all sins so that they are not distinguishable from each other. Or, to put it another way, this phrase is used to portray all human beings as precisely the same. If all sins are equal, and all people sin, then no one is more holy than anyone else.

In a world fascinated with “equality,” this usage of the phrase is particularly attractive to folks. It allows everyone to be lumped together into a single undifferentiated mass.

Such a move is also useful as a way to prevent particular behaviors from being condemned. If all sins are equal, and everyone is a sinner, then you are not allowed to highlight any particular sin (or sinner).

Needless to say, this usage of the phrase has featured largely in the recent cultural debates over issues like homosexuality. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, some Christians reluctantly concede. But, they argue, all sins are equal in God’s sight and therefore it is no different than anything else. Therefore, Christians ought to stop talking about homosexuality unless they are also willing to talk about impatience, anger, gluttony, and so on.

Krueger also posted this fascinating follow up post, where he looks at how the phrase is being used by people on Twitter.

Look at these tweets:

  • All sins are equal. People tend to forget that. There is no bigger or smaller sin. Being gay and lying, very equal.

  • all sins are equal in God’s eyes. whatever you’re doing, is no better than what someone else is doing.

  • If you have sex before marriage please don’t come on social media preaching about the wrongs of homosexuality. All sins are equal

  • Need people to realize that all sins are equal… don’t try to look down on me or question my faith just cuz you sin differently than I do.

  • Don’t understand why you’re so quick to judge me, when all sins are equal. So much for family..

  • if you think being gay is a sin, let me ask you something, have you not done anything wrong in your life? all sins are equal. we’re sinners

  • Nope no difference at all. All sins are equal no matter what you’re running for. The bible says do not judge lest ye be judged

  • A huge problem I have with religion is the notion that all sins are equal. Like pre-martial sex and murder are the same amount t of bad.

  • people do bad things because they believe that all sins are equal and ~god~ loves y’all equally so he’s going to forgive you naman ha ha ha

  • It a sin to condemn another sinner and their actions. All sins are equal. So what makes you better than the person you’re condemning?

  • I think so b/c having sex before marriage doesn’t make you less of a women then if you waited until marriage.. all sins are equal soo

  • friendly reminder, all sins are equal in gods eyes so you’re not better than I am in any way. please worry about your own sins before mine.

  • People don’t like when I suggest abortion as an option. This is a free country and all sins are equal so mind your business!!!

  • What I do is no worse than wat you do… all sins are equal no matter what it is… a sin is a sin

  • to god all sins are equal so you have no right to compare your sins to someone else’s bc in the end it doesn’t matter

The first thing that I noticed is that premarital sex and homosexuality are the most popular sins. I would think that divorce and abortion would be up there in the rankings, as well.

People want to be free to follow their hearts when seeking pleasure, then quote the Bible (badly) afterwards, to attack anyone who says that anything they’ve done is morally wrong. They would rather escape the judgment of their peers than admit fault and try to fix the mistake, and do better next time. And they would rather tell people who are hurting themselves by breaking the rules that there are no rules. It makes them feel good to “not judge” – they feel as if they are being kind. Their compassion looks good to non-Christians. And they’re promoting moral relativism which, when it becomes widespread, prevents anyone from judging them.

It’s so bad now, that the people who have morals and who make moral judgments are seen as the real bad people. The immoral people are on the offense, and even trying to ban people from being able to disagree with them.

9 thoughts on “Why do some Christians say “all sins are equally bad” and “everyone is equally guilty”?”

  1. This is a common tactic. Point out someone else’s unrelated moral failing in order to prove that that person has no right to comment on whether or not what you’ve done is moral. At best, this would prove hypocrisy but it would prove that the judgement is incorrect.

    Further, I don’t think people who say, “lust is adultery,” have thought very hard about the logical implications of this. Let’s try a thought experiment:

    1. Jesus said that to look on a woman with lust is to commit adultery in your heart. Therefore there is fundamentally no difference between lust and actual adultery, including stripping men of church leadership positions and allowing their wives to divorce them.

    2. Jesus said that to be angry with your brother is to commit murder in your heart. Therefore there is fundamentally no difference between hateful rage and murder. Anyone who has experienced this type of hateful rate should be sentenced to life in prison.

    I know plenty of people willing to accept the first position but no one willing to accept the latter. So what’s the difference?

    Jesus was speaking to a crowd who had been taught by the reigning religious leaders that they could earn their way into heaven by keeping the law perfectly. His point was to demonstrate that this was impossible. The Pharisees may have been “more righteous” than the tax collectors in terms of number of sins committed, but even so that didn’t make them right with God because their hearts were still sinful.

    He was NOT saying that sinning in the heart and outwardly sinning are fundamentally the same such that we ought to treat both exactly the same.

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  2. They say it because they are ignorant. Just one example of some sins receiving greater condemnation: Luke 20:46–47 (ESV)
    “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

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  3. They are also foolish and ignorant in thinking that even IF all sins were equal that it means they are equally insignificant. But they are all wildly significant to God and put Jesus on the cross.

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  4. In my view, the “all sins are equally bad” and “everyone is equally guilty” lines are nothing more that an attempt to pre-emptively shut down ANY serious discussion about sin and judgement. THAT is the objective. And that is first base for preaching the Gospel… And if there is one thing postmoderns canNOT tolerate (though they love to portray themselves as “tolerant”) is a reminder that one day they too will have to give an accounting to SomeOne, the Just Judge.

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  5. Many also completely misunderstand some unique views of Christianity.

    We beleive we are guilty of all sins and so in a way it is true all sins are equal. Reading Romans is a great study into the depravity of man on his own.

    But when we are saved it is through faith in Jesus by grace. Sinning is less does not increase our chance of entering heaven.

    But many of these quotes above that say don’t judge me sound like a bunch of people with unrepentant hearts that do not sound like they have submitted to allow God to begin a work of salvation in them.

    If they argued that yes I may sin and stumble but I strive to become better before God, it is better.

    And that comes down to my view of homosexuality and abortion which are two final things. Either a world view of embracing a sin lifestyle and celebrating it. Or in the latter case of committing murder.

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  6. All sin has an equal RESULT: death. First spiritual and then physical. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezek. 18:20).

    But not all sin merits an equal PUNISHMENT, as the Luke 20 passage above clearly indicates.

    And thank God, all sin has an equal REMEDY: the precious blood of Christ (Jn. 3:16).

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