Alright CIC readers, I'm looking for some feedback. Recently I received the following question from one of my Community Group members and sent her a brief 10-minute response. I had considered polishing it up before posting it over here for you guys, but I think I'd rather hear your thoughts. What would you have added/left out/said differently?
Q: Some people believe that there is no difference among sins because of the verse where Jesus talked about lusting after a woman is as bad as adultery and hating someone in your heart is like actually murdering them. What do you think?
A: I don't believe there is no difference or that adultery is "as bad" as lusting. I don't think that's what Jesus was really getting at. I think, as Lee talked about at length in last week's sermon, that there is a heart component to every sin, that every sin really happens at the heart level. So while I believe that adultery and lust are both equally sins in the eyes of God, there's a lot more that must be considered.
First off, every sin is a sin because it is an affront to the nature of God. So when James says "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (2:10), I believe that is because when I lie, I am living in direct conflict with the moral nature of God, just as when I steal or covet or lust. Thus, they are all sins. So on this level, lusting is the same as adultery because our hearts--not just our hands, eyes and feet--are accountable to live by the moral nature of God.
However, while lust is just that, I would suggest that adultery actually involves a number of sins: lust, covetousness, theft (to name a few) and requires a further quenching of the conviction of the Holy Spirit to actually put sinful thoughts and desires into action.
Also, God must see the consequences of the two sins as being unequal at least here on earth, because while I believe capital punishment was something instituted in Genesis and endorsed in the New Testament as well (Rom. 13:4), Jesus didn't say that if you hate a brother in your heart that you should suffer the same earthly consequences as if you had really murdered someone.
So while Jesus did say "you have committed murder in your heart" and "you have committed adultery in your heart", I don't think we can say that there is a 1 to 1 ratio when we consider the scope of the sin, the earthly consequences of the sin, the companion sins that may occur in the actual deed, and the quenching of the Holy Spirit in the process.