Big Sins And Little Sins

Q. My son-in-law leads a local group of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. One of the Catholic girls expressed her belief that there are big and small sins. He knows that all sin is sin and must be repented of and confessed. He said they would talk about it this Sunday.

Do you have some special teaching or insight that would make it clear to her what the truth really is? Thank you so much for your help.

A. Your son-in-law’s friend is repeating a Catholic belief in two levels of sin. According to Catholic doctrine there are venial sins which don’t lead to death and mortal sins which do lead to death. Both must be forgiven by a priest, usually with some penance thrown in. Venial sin that hasn’t been confessed before death must be worked off in purgatory. Mortal sin can’t be worked off in purgatory and will condemn a Catholic believer to Hell.

Obviously this distinction between types of sin isn’t Biblical nor is the notion of Purgatory. The best way to handle this is to show that the Bible considers all sin to be mortal (the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23) and only through the death of Jesus can our sins be forgiven, but He can forgive even mortal sin if we have truly given our heart to Him. Romans 8:1 clearly says that there’s no condemnation for those who trust in Christ Jesus.

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