Pastors, All sins are not equal.

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

– Leviticus 20:10, KJV


Not all sins in a marriage are acceptable to God as worthy of ending a marriage (e.g. Mt 5:32).

Not all sins call for the death penalty, even in the Old Testament times.

Not all sins are as devastating as adultery is.

Not all sins are explicitly called “evil” like adultery (see Deut. 22:22).

All sins are NOT equal.

Why does this matter?

It matters pastorally when confronted with the evil of adultery. If the pastor ascribes to the “all sins are equal” heresy, then he or she is one short step away from espousing “The Shared Responsibility Lie.” And they are diagnostically ill-equipped to deal with the actual evil they are supposed to be confronting.

The pastor has proverbially shown up to a gun fight with a butter knife.

It won’t end well for anyone in this fight, spiritually speaking.

And if that is not bad enough, this pastor is about to do surgery on the victim–i.e. the faithful spouse–with that dull blade. He is about to cut the adultery survivor open by ascribing to lies and flawed theology.

Lie #1: The faithful spouse is responsible, in part, for the infidelity of the adulterous spouse–aka “The Shared Responsibility Lie.

Lie#2: All marital sins are equal and ought to be treated as such in pastoral counseling–see my points above.

Lie #3: Counseling for divorce is never acceptable for a Christian leader even in the case of adultery (see post here).

I am tired of hearing stories of pastors–well-meaning but wrong–going on a sin-quest with faithful spousese after they expose their partner’s adultery. “So, what did you contribute to the sins in your marriage?” This is beside the point in these matters. You could ask the same thing of the pastor as we always have sin in our marriages because we are sinners (see I John 1:8). To level this question at an adultery survivor is victim-blaming. And this victim-blaming happens too often. It is so bad that I trust very few pastors not to ascribe to the above lies and make this horrific theological and pastoral error.

The problem is that big.

So, if you are a pastor, chaplain, or elder/Christian leader reading this, do yourself a favor before God and for your congregants.

Please, do not fall for these demonic lies.

Please, do not further victimize the victims of evil adultery.

Please do not engage in the game of false equivalencies–e.g. “Your sinful disrespect of me that one time is the same as my cheating on you for a year.” 


3 thoughts on “Pastors, All sins are not equal.”

  1. I heard from my cheater wife “a sin is a sin”. I felt rage and replied “no it is not. Adultery is a most serious sin in a marriage.” It felt like arrogance and ignorance at the same time.

  2. The equivalence of sins has become prevalent in Christian culture. My son was in a class today where the kids were insisting that all sins are the same in God’s eyes because they are all leading to eternal death. They know relevant scriptures that contradicts that, and even mentioned some. They had justifications for dismissing them. As I told my son, this isn’t just a disagreement about a doctrine because that could be resolved by a clearer view of the facts. This is about cultural values that affect the perception. Hard to change that.

    I think also that there is a hatred in Christian culture for anything that sounds like blame. The assumption seems to be that blame equals dodging guilt or making excuses. I think falsely blaming someone is a definite sin. I think that Adam and Eve (frequently accused of playing the blame game) did it exactly right. They told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — including a direct confession, “I did eat.”

    Neither of them was dismissed by God. When Adam explained that Eve had brought him the fruit, God’s response was, “Eve, what have you done?!” At no point did the truth about temptation remove any guilt of sin. In fact, Adam suffered extra consequences because he listened to Eve.

    The bottom line is that putting someone in the way of sin is itself a sin. Also, the person who succumbs to the temptation has his own sin. In the case of adultery, I can imagine a non-adulterous spouse could cause difficulty by withholding, but that wouldn’t mean the adulterous spouse is clear of guilt. Sometimes there can be withholding that goes beyond just withholding sex and can be very abusive expecially if combined with gaslighting, etc.. Still, adultery — especially if it is repetitive — is an intentional act. I have been in an emotionally abusive marriage for a long time, with very much contempt, neglect, withholding of affection… never has it coerced me to have sex outside of marriage. I have struggled with lust and desire at times, but that hasn’t forced me to act out and commit adultery.

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