The Good Doesn’t Outweigh the Bad

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One of the more difficult aspects of witnessing to Mormons is showing them the seriousness and extent of their sins.  There are a number of reasons why they struggle to see that.  One of the more prominent reasons is that they have been told from little on up that they are basically good and are filled with divine potential.  Talk about how sinful all people are – talk that is common in many Christian churches – is foreign to them. Such talk is not part of their culture or vocabulary.

Therefore we have to point out to them the many things the Bible labels a sin.  It isn’t just actual murder that is condemned, but also unjust anger.  Not just adultery, but also dirty thoughts and talks. Worry, lovelessness, lack of taking everything to God in prayer – the list goes on and on.  But even if and when they admit that such things are sin, many often brush them off with the thought that the good they do outweighs these “little sins”.

There are a number of different passages and incidents in the Bible that show the fallacy of such thinking.  The old reliable is James 2:10:  “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  It only takes one pinprick to burst a balloon.  It only takes one link of a chain to fail for disaster to hit.  It only takes one zero in a multiplication problem to nullify everything.  It only takes one sin to bring complete guilt on a person.

I use James 2:10 a lot.  But I have also found it helpful to refer to the time when Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to it with the result that God told him he couldn’t enter the Promise Land.  This incident is recorded in Numbers 20:1-12.  I like to use that incident for the following reasons:

1) To our thinking, hitting the rock instead of speaking is a pretty minor offense.

2) If anybody had accumulated a lot of good, it was Moses.  This is how he is described in Deut. 34: 10-12:  “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to the whole land.  For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

3) The consequence of his sin was quite severe: being denied entry into the Promised Land after leading the obstinate nation of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness!

Although Moses did a lot of good, that goodness did not give him a pass. He suffered some major consequences.

When you think about it, that holds true not just in God’s courtroom, but in courtrooms around the world.  When a good and upstanding citizen breaks the law, he or she isn’t given a pass.  They still get speeding tickets.  They still receive prison sentences.  The good they do does not cancel or outweigh the bad.

Sin – all sin – is serious.  There are no misdemeanors when it comes to sin.  Not only is every sin a felony, every sin is a capital crime.  Every sin is deserving of the death penalty.  That is something that we need to remember for ourselves.  That is something that we need to emphasize with our LDS friends.  We need to do that because only when people see the serious straits that they are in will they become serious about getting help.

And the only help that overcomes sin’s guilt is the blood of Jesus.  “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Jesus’ sacrifice is the only thing that outweighs the bad.  Good doesn’t outweigh the bad.  Only God outweighs the bad.  May many of our LDS friends come to believe that truth!