All Sins Are Forgiven, But Some Are More Forgiven Than Others

ImageImagine a church where members are nicknamed for the most well-known sin they’ve ever committed.

Sitting on the next-to-last pew is Bob the Drunk. He’s now in his late seventies, and he’s been sober for the last three decades, but up into his forties he was still hitting the bottle pretty hard. And everyone knew it.

A few pews up from him, surrounded by her doting husband and three children, is Backseat Betty. You see, her oldest child was conceived out of wedlock, when Betty was in her senior year of high school. It was the talk of the town back in the day.

The man in the starched white shirt and blue jeans is Mike the Thief. He served a prison term for holding up a convenience store. Although it was in a different town, and even a different state, the story had a way of catching up with Mike. So when he joined the congregation, the nickname was soon forthcoming.

Bob the Drunk, Backseat Betty, Mike the Thief, and other nicknamed sinners gather every Sunday with other sinners who are not nicknamed. They’re just Margaret, Paul, Cindy, John. It’s not that these others have not sinned; it’s just that their sins haven’t been big enough, or public enough, or scandalous enough to earn a nickname.

The preacher proclaims from the pulpit, to everyone assembled, that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, all their sins are forgiven. But in this particular church, all sins are forgiven, but some sins are more forgiven than others.

Every year, in the springtime, Christians around the world gather in their respective communities to celebrate Good Friday. It is the day Jesus was crucified to atone for the sins of the world. It is the day that he dies for Bob the Drunk, Backseat Betty, Mike the Thief. On Good Friday, they become Bob, Betty, and Mike.

Anyone who dares to attach a nickname to them seeks to uncrucify Jesus.

All sins are forgiven, and none are forgiven more, or less, than others.

If you’d like to read more reflections like this one, check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. If you’re looking for feel-good, saccharine devotional material, you’d better keep looking because you’re not going to find it here. If you’re looking for moralistic guides to the victorious Christian life, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed by all the Gospel in this book. But if you’re looking for reflections drenched in the Scriptures, focused through and through on the saving work of Jesus Christ, and guided by a law-and-Gospel approach to proclamation, then I daresay you’ll be pleased with this book. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

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16 thoughts on “All Sins Are Forgiven, But Some Are More Forgiven Than Others

  1. That includes Fred the fag and Don the “doesn’t attend church nearly as much as he should but it still on the membership rolls”.

  2. Then, on Easter Monday, Bob goes to an AA meeting and proclaims himself to be Bob the Drunk again (even though the only alcohol to pass through his lips in the past 30 years is the Lord’s blood).

    Grrrrr…

    • Johnna on said:

      Many in Aa introduce themselves as “I’m Bob, a recovering alcoholic”. No one must introduce themselves as an alcoholic. In fact the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. I’ve even heard one person introduce herself as “I’m Tina and I have a desire to stop drinking.”
      And being an alcoholic is way more than simply drinking. We say “alcohol is a symptom of our problem.” So even though alcohol hasn’t passed my lips in over 15 years, (I ask my pastor for nonalcoholic wine) , I surely am an alcoholic.

      • Do you not recognize that you are still identifying yourself with your sin? You are baptized. You have no right to identify yourself in a way other than God does.

    • Perhaps “Bob” understands that he is still both sinner and saint.

  3. Eric on said:

    Chad, just started following you. I’m not sure what your story is but as for me, I’m a 40 year old former pastor who is struggling to peel off the nicknames. Just wanted to thank you.

  4. Wonder if they’d even let me through the door – being a Scientist who studies evolution and genetic engineering…oO…

    Robbyn the Devil’s Puppet…???

    I keed…:D My pastor thinks it’s cool that I get “play” with genetics…oO

  5. Keith P. on said:

    Bob the Drunk can indeed be right with God and his fellow man through forgiveness…we ought to call him just Bob by the grace of Christ poured out on Good Friday. And no human is perfect (Romans 3:23). Let’s say Bob is in his early 30s instead of his 70s. He drank hard in his 20s but that’s all behind him now, though his reflexes aren’t what they should be. But if Bob’s job is driving an ambulance, Bob needs to remove himself from his position so Bob doesn’t hurt others or put those he serves in a state of danger.

    Bob lives in grace, but he – and all of us – do not live in a world without consequences or responsibility. And Bob the ambulance driver must be a cut above the other drivers on the road: able to make quick decisions based on his training, make the right calls in dangerous situations, not crashing the ambulance again & again when Bob knew he had to turn. And Bob can’t blame the other drivers on the road…if a lady stops in front of Bob’s ambulance and Bob doesn’t hit the brakes, ultimately, Bob’s responsible for rear-ending her. Ouch, Bob! You’ll be forgiven again & again (Matthew 18:21-22) on Sunday where you’ll be greeted with open Christian arms, sympathy, and a chiropractic referral (along with being advised in love for his own good and the good of those he serves to find another job).

  6. Mike G on said:

    This is a great way of describing how some churchgoers look at each other. I love the reminder that God wipes away these perceptions that humanity tends to hold onto! Such a vivid picture!

    However, I noticed that all of these nicknames belonged to people who had completely moved past their sin. Is there still room for “Bill the drunk who still stumbles into a bad night once in a while”? It seems like that nickname could be even more damaging. Unfortunately, the resolution of sinful habits doesn’t always end up as clean as we would like to see it. I just hope we can extend the same kind of redemptive love to those who are still struggling, too.

    • Yes, Mike, you are right. Past sins, as well as those against which we still struggle in a life of repentance–these are all forgiven in Christ. Thank you for the insightful comment!

  7. Thank you for this, Chad.

  8. Sam Pakan on said:

    Works for me!

    Sam the — well, you know.

  9. Bruce Lucas on said:

    Thanks for the post, Chad. I’ve quoted a sentence out of this in my sermon tomorrow (with proper attribution in the footnotes, of course).

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