Paul wrote, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Earlier, he had
quoted from the psalms in saying, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (v.10; cf. Psalm 14:3).
It is quite easy to say, “Sin is sin.” What we mean when we say that is that every sin is an affront to the perfection and holiness of God, no matter the type of sin. It is another thing, however, to come to the place where we are willing to state that all sins are equal. Some are just “bigger” or “darker” in our minds.
That is even true among those who do not profess godliness. If you were to walk down the street and take a simple poll, asking people “which is worse, lying or murder?” I think we know what the answer would be. If the results of the poll were not unanimous, they would be close to it, stating that murder is clearly “worse.”
Then, someone who has done one (or more) of these “worse” sins hears the saving message of Jesus Christ. Maybe they have a past filled with drug use or even peddling drugs. Maybe they have murdered or raped another. Maybe they have had a series of abortions. Maybe they were abusive to a spouse or children.
Those actions haunt them as they consider the message of Jesus, and that He is a Savior. As is only natural, their thinking turns to a simple question: “Will God actually forgive me?” They know the levels to which they have sunk, and now they think there is no way out. After all, everything else they have tried has failed, so why would God “work?”
What can we tell people in this situation? It is easy to tell them our own story, but for some of us, our story may not seem as sordid as theirs. We know we were saved from sin, but those in such dire circumstances cannot see that what we did (which may seem like nothing compared to their sin) was just as damning as what they have done.
So, why not take them to Acts 2? It is easy to jump to Acts 2:38, where Peter gives the inspired response concerning what one must do to be saved, and fail to see who we was saying that to. Those gathered that day were in the city of Jerusalem for the feast called Pentecost. These same people had been in Jerusalem just a few weeks earlier for the events leading up to and including Calvary.
Peter, on Pentecost, preached a powerful sermon, showing that Jesus had been the promised one. “Mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him” (v.22) showed Him to be the Messiah, but Peter added, “you crucified and killed [Him] by the hands of lawless men” (v.23). After further proofs about Jesus’ power and resurrection Peter gave the powerful statement, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v.36).
No matter what someone may have done in our modern world, they were not the ones crying out to Pilate, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They were not the ones hurling insults at the Lord as He died in agony on the cross. They were not the ones spitting on Him or just enjoying the spectacle of having this “nuisance” done away with.
Oh, certainly, it was sin that put Jesus on the cross, and that does include those sins a person is concerned about, but it also includes every sin I have ever committed. It, further, includes the sins of those who were actually there, reveling in the death of Jesus on Golgotha.
In Acts 2, after Peter made it clear that those in his audience had put Jesus, the Son of God, to death, they asked, “What shall we do?” (v.37) We need to show people not just Peter’s answer, but what Peter did not say. Peter did not look at those around him and say, “You’ve done something too awful. God won’t forgive you.”
Thankfully, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v.38). That same promise is still available to all, including those who may think God can’t—or won’t—forgive.
He can, and He will.
By Adam Faughn
This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of “Think” magazine.