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The Greatest Sin

Updated on October 25, 2010
Head of Christ, Warner Sallman, 1941
Head of Christ, Warner Sallman, 1941

From a Bible Believing Christian to Others of Like Mind

What is the greatest sin? Many evangelicals will tell you it’s “rejecting Jesus” and we know that “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31) is listed as the only unforgivable sin, but we don’t really have a good definition of what that means. I’ve heard that rejecting Jesus and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit are the same thing. Often listing “unforgivable sin” is a “scare tactic” to push someone into a particular behavior.

But are either of those “The Greatest Sin”?

Our Catholic friends have given us a list of the “Seven Deadly Sins”: Pride, Avarice, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth. Maybe one of these are the greatest sin.

Maybe the ten commandments has the greatest sin listed. Murder, perhaps. Or adultery? Those are pretty bad sins, that’s for sure.

But, are any of these really the greatest sin?

What is Sin Anyway?

While we’re on the subject. What exactly is sin? Some of us have this idea (encouraged by certain professional holy men) that sins are just these terribly horrible things that we should all feel guilty about all the time. And that could be … to a point. But that's not the whole story. Far from it. The Greek word that is translated into the English word “sin” is Hamartia.

A quick search of Wikipedia tells us:

Hamartia (Ancient Greek:) is a term developed by Aristotle in his work Poetics. The term can simply be seen as a character’s flaw or error. The word hamartia is rooted in the notion of missing the mark (hamartanein) and covers a broad spectrum that includes accident and mistake, as well as wrongdoing, error..,

There is much less “accusation” in the original Greek it’s a more of a simple acknowledgment of our lack of perfection.

OK, enough already, What is the “Greatest Sin”?

The Greatest Sin Is ...

It makes sense that the greatest sin would be failure to follow the greatest commandment.

Matthew 22:37-39 says “37 Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

And as a point of clarification, we see in scripture that we cannot do commandment number one, without doing commandment number two. 1 John 4:20 says: If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

The greatest sin, therefore, is failure to love. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us:

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6 It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Failure to love. That is the greatest sin.

When I am impatient I am committing the greatest sin.

When I am unkind or jealous, I am committing the greatest sin. When I am boastful, proud, rude, selfish, irritable, these are “great” sins.

When I give up on my friends. When I abandon hope. When I allow circumstances to dictate my attitude toward people. I commit great sin.

Because when I do any of these things, I am failing to love.

But How?

We can not do this alone. We don’t have to.

1 John 2:1-3, 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin [Fail to Love]. And if anyone sins [Fails to Love], we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

1 John 3:16-21

… 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.

It is said, that in his later years, the apostle John, the author of the above writings, when he was old, would be carried from town to town to speak with the Christians. They would strain to hear about the miracles of Jesus. The water into wine. The healings. The resurrections. “Tell us the stories of Jesus”, they would cry.

And he would simply say, “Little children, love, love one another.”


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