Are all sins equally bad? Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
Q. 83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
— Westminster Shorter Catechism
This principle is amplified at greater length in the Westminster Larger Catechism, which sets forth a list of things which might make a sin more heinous, including:
- the offender is of ripe age, holds an eminent office, or is a guide to others
- the person offended is someone the offender is related to, or is one of the saints, particularly weaker brethren
- the offense violates the express letter of the law
- the offense contains in it many sins, and is not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalizes others, admits of no reparation, and is done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, or continuance.
The full text of the relevant part of the Larger Catechism
Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?
A. All transgressions of the law are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?
A. Sins receive their aggravations,
1. From the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.
2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them, or any other, and the common good of all or many.
3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, willfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
4. From circumstances of time, and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.
— Westminster Larger Catechism
Here are a couple of Bible passages which testify to the fact that some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. (Luke 10:13-14, cf Matt 11:20-22)
So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11)
For a discussion of how all this can relate to domestic abuse and how it pertains to the story of the Levite’s Concubine in Judges 19, I invite you to watch this video presentation.