Sin Leveling or Why Throwing Out The Law Has Huge Consequences

I’ve been wanting to write this for some time and I’m starting it because of a discussion I’ve been in on sin leveling and how much abuse against women and children is excused because of it. There are a lot of different ideas tying into this and if you know me at all you know it’s going to get deep, and that means it will of course be long. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. . .

Sin leveling is the idea that all sin is the same.

This idea is especially strong in Evangelical circles. It’s a child they inherited from various traditions. It thrives in Patriarchy.

Sin Leveling: We are all sinners and all sin separates us from God. Sin is sin is sin is sin and if you lie you are no better than the person who murdered so you can’t judge anyone and we all need Jesus.

The extension of this that begins to show the cracks in the veneer plays out as this:

If I am right with God and He has forgiven me for my sins and you refuse to forgive me for my sins then you need to remember that unforgiveness is a sin and that means I’m right with God and you aren’t so you are the one with the problem.

As to the question of what is wrong with it let me just say so very very much.

And the only way you can come up with a flawed doctrine of this particular kind is when you have thrown out God’s Law as irrelevant. When you study God’s Law with the desire to understand what it really is and why God gave it to His people (and if you’re claiming to be a follower of Jesus you are one of his people!) then you begin to understand the incredible relevance of his Law.

So let’s break it down and lets start by laying a foundation to make sure we’re all on the same page and talking about the same thing . . .

All sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant or how earth shatteringly damaging, is present in the world and evidence that man was separated from God at the Fall.

“Sin” means “missing the mark” and the mark is Jesus. God said about the Law the same thing Jesus said about how those who love him would live . . . “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Jesus is God and God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Jesus is very clear that he did not come to abolish the Law (teach in opposition to it or undermine it, let alone do away with it). (Matthew 5:17)

Paul says very clearly, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)

When Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the messenger of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) we have to understand that Paul was not talking about his and the other Apostles’ letters. Yes, we see how integral they are in understanding faith, and we include them with the Scriptures for the purpose that he expresses about the Scriptures, but they only accomplish that purpose when they are consistently in agreement with the Scriptures. The Scriptures in Paul’s day were Torah and the Prophets.

This becomes incredibly significant when we realize that Jesus never said that the Greatest Commandments — to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself–replace the Law. What he said, when asked the question of his day on which much has been written and much studied from a Rabbinic perspective, was not even a new answer! He was found to be with much wisdom because he expressed an idea understood to be wise by those who understood things in his day.

Let’s take a second to look at the exchange in Matthew 22:36-40.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let’s break that down.

An Expert in the Law tested him. It doesn’t say, “was confused,” or, “needed help understanding,” or, “didn’t get it.” What were they testing him about? About the thing they were an expert in. The Law. In fact, Matthew then goes into Jesus asking them what they really think they are looking for when they say they’re looking for Messiah. He knew they were testing him to see whether he fulfilled the Law (upheld it, lived it, taught it correctly) or not. They were never able to fail him in these tests!

So if Jesus answered this question correctly, what is the correct answer?

Well, we see that Jesus immediately and correctly identified the “trick question” that was part of this test. The greatest commandment isn’t one commandment — it is a two-fold Truth about God’s Law!

God’s Law cannot be summed up by one rule. It has to be summed up with two ideas of eternal Truth.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ AND ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

The second is equal to the first when you want to live obediently to God’s Law.

And this brings us to the problem with sin leveling as a doctrine.

All sin is present in the world as evidence that mankind was separated from God at the Fall.

If Jesus did what those who are his followers claim he did, then he fixed the problem of sin. Paul says it this way,

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” (Galatians 3:13)

If this doesn’t mean that Jesus did away with the Law, and it most certainly does not because if it did that would make Jesus the man of Lawlessness, not the Messiah, then what does it mean?

Exactly what it says — he redeemed us not from the Law, but from the curse of the Law.

What was the curse of the Law?

Sin is present in the world as evidence that mankind was separated from God at the Fall.

Without God’s intervention, mankind would not be able to hit the mark.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, about which he said, “It is finished,” we are now granted the right to be called Sons of God.

We are not merely sinners saved by grace.

We were sinners and the Good News — the Gospel — is that we are now granted the right to be called children of God!

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)

And then in 1 John 3:10 we encounter this hard truth.

So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

About now is when echoes of Jesus’ words might want to ring into the discussion.

“If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

And that summary of the Greatest Command that requires two expressions of eternal Truth when summing up the Law

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ AND ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Right at this crossroads of Truth, at this place where I’m hoping things are starting to slide together and the tumblers are falling into place in a way that you’ve wanted them to for so long that you forgot you wanted them to, because that is what happened to me when I realized this . . . .right here, is the problem with sin leveling.

All sin is evidence that mankind was separated from God at the Fall.

The curse of the Law is the awareness of the reality that we are separated from God.

The Good News is that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law and we are no longer separated from God.

Resulting in the reality that to all who believe and accept him he granted the right to become children of God!

How do we know the children of God?

They live righteously and love others.

Love your neighbor as yourself

Love your neighbor as yourself

Sin leveling is heresy because it flies in the face of this Truth from God’s Word.

All sin is evidence we were separated from God.

In no other way is all sin equal.

Salvation fixes the problem of sin separating us from God.

Then a hard Truth from the Law becomes incredibly relevant — one you might miss if you never study it, or if you don’t study it to see what it has to teach you — there were sacrifices people were required to offer for two kinds of sins:

The sins you didn’t know were sin and when you find out they are sin you regret what you have done


The sins you knew were sins and didn’t know you were doing them and when you find out you regret what you have done

The first of those is about gaining understanding. You were doing something, you learn it’s a sin, you immediately regret it and want to stop and want to express your sorrow and regret to God that you were doing something you now understand is a sin.

This is what Paul is expressing in Romans 7:9-10a when he says,

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died.

The second speaks to things you knew were a sin but you didn’t know you were doing them. One of the specific examples addressed in the Law is if you are in a field and don’t know there is a dead body nearby. When you discover you are in the presence of the dead body, and have been made unclean by it’s presence, you want to quickly bathe and correct the situation. Jesus gave this example:

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Matthew 18:15 is relevant here as well.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

If you can shift gears and put yourself in the place of the brother (or sister) who is confronted with how you wronged someone, when you become aware of that sin you did that you may not have realized you did, you will understand the response of the person who realizes that they did something they knew was wrong but didn’t know they were doing.

Sacrifices were for unintentional and accidental sins. Intentional sins required repentance and making amends.

The penalty for a violation of the Law was determined by what it would take to make amends to those who were wronged by it.

If you stole something, you repaid 4 times the amount.

If you injured someone and rendered their eye, or arm, or leg, or life unable to be used for their benefit, you compensated them financially for that loss.

If you murdered someone accidentally, you were given the opportunity to flee to a City of Refuge before someone from that family found you and exacted revenge before you could have a fair trial. You were granted safe passage for a fair trial and if you were found not guilty of murder, if it was truly an accident, then you are allowed to live but you still have to live in the City of Refuge until the death of the sitting High Priest because accident or not you killed that person and their family has to be given time to grieve and move to forgiveness.

And that right there is why sin leveling is unbiblical.

The Greatest Command involves BOTH loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Thank God that Jesus took care of the curse of sin so that when we miss the mark we are not separated from God because of it. And we cannot judge anyone because we know Romans 3:23 tells us,

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

And yet we are impacted by some sins more than others.

When we harm someone, we have to make amends. God requires it!

Live in the City of Refuge so that the family who lost their loved one isn’t confronted daily with the smiling and still alive face of the one who killed their person.

Leave the altar if you remember that you wronged someone and don’t go back until you have made amends — then your sacrifice will be pleasing to God.

The heresy of sin leveling denies this. It teaches that God forgave me so you have to. If you don’t then unforgiveness is a sin and that makes you no better than me.

It says I’m right with God and if you aren’t right with me then you are the one with a problem.

No matter what I did.

No matter how badly I wronged you.

And that is not loving. In fact, it is hateful. It slights, wrongs, and deprives someone. It violates the Greatest Command in a way that is expressed this way:

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (1 John 2:9)

When you learn you have wronged someone, the presence of the love of God and the love of your neighbor inside of you moves you to regret and compassion. Guilt is a good thing and provokes you to stop sinning. The curse of the Law is gone, but the wisdom of it lives on!

Sin leveling tells those who were wronged that their feelings matter less than the eternal status of the person who wronged them and that isn’t true. The second eternal Truth of the Greatest Command is equal to the first. You have to embrace them both before you can even hope to walk in the two-fold Truth that sums up all Torah and the Prophets.

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