Why one sin condemns
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. James 2:10
“One failure, and total guilt crashes down on me? Kind of an overreaction, isn’t it? Hmmm. So that’s what God is really like. Figures.”
Let’s admit it. That turn of mind is inside us all. But is it just?
Every American knows the name Benedict Arnold. He was a traitor. He betrayed the American cause in the Revolutionary War. The memory of Benedict Arnold conjures up one thought: treason.
What we also need to know is that Arnold had served energetically and effectively on the American side. As a general in our Continental Army, he bravely fought and won at Fort Ticonderoga. But he was passed over for promotion, he ran up some personal debts, he came under criticism by political competitors, so he switched sides. He got himself assigned to the command of West Point, in order to hand it over to the British. But his plot was discovered.
I wonder what he was thinking. I wonder if he weighed all the good he had done for the Americans against the bad he was receiving from the Americans, and he justified himself, he told himself it was okay. But that isn’t how the moral calculus works. Doing good does not offset doing evil. Doing evil offsets doing good. That is why the good record of Benedict Arnold will forever be overshadowed in the American consciousness by his one act of betrayal. His treachery revealed the true state of his heart. He had not been serving America sincerely but for ulterior motives. And when he was not served to his own satisfaction, he turned. If he had been served to his satisfaction, he doubtless would have stayed true. But even then, his loyalty would have been deeply false. Undiscovered, but false.
Our obedience to God doesn’t necessarily mean a thing. It might not be obedience at all. It might be coincidence. It might be that what the Bible says and what we wanted to do anyway just happen to line up. We claim to be pro-God, but what reveals our hearts is our disobedience. This is why one violation of the law condemns us. Our sin exposes the fraudulence of our righteousness, not the other way around.
Christ died for us, his betrayers. Now he offers us his royal amnesty on terms of grace, received with the empty hands of faith, which we are finally able to hold out before him when we admit what we really are inside.