Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

The sinning hierarchy

Posted on 14 Jul 2013 in Christianity, Discipleship, Ministry | 3 comments

Several years ago, I remember a high profile ministry leader resigning. This was a man with a national audience, joyous followers, and a devoted fan base. His words of encouragement blessed tens of thousands of people a week. Inexplicably, he resigned suddenly. Right before a quiet time of solitude and retreat, all he left was a vague letter about a moral failure. He had wandered from Christ, betrayed his ministry, and deeply hurt his wife and daughter. After that, he seemingly disappeared. The ministry that he used to work for deleted all records of him off of their website. He had little to know digital footprint outside of the conversations that people were having about him and his ‘situation.’

His ministry was gone.

His family was hurt, scarred, and fractured.

His influence was a zero.

All because of a moral failure.


We’ve developed neat little lists of the ‘acceptable’ and the ‘unacceptable’ sins. There are the ones that are tolerable and the ones that are intolerable.

And not surprisingly, the tolerable ones are the ones that we struggle with.


And you all probably think he had an affair, don’t you?

After almost a year of silence there was a press release from him. In short, it said that he resigned because he had been struggling with anger and bitterness. He had become short with his wife and not the Christlike example of grace and love that was required of him as a husband and father.

And most of you have probably gone from, “Oh no he had an affair.” to “What? Why resign over that? That isn’t that big of a deal….”

English: A large pot hole on Second Avenue in ...

The nature of potholes is like sin, it keeps growing until we take care of it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Do you see what we’ve done to sin?

We’ve ranked them.

We’ve developed neat little lists of the ‘acceptable’ and the ‘unacceptable’ sins. There are the ones that are tolerable and the ones that are intolerable.

And not surprisingly, the tolerable ones are the ones that we struggle with.

Look at the above (true) story. An unexpected resignation and the message boards lit up with the bogus and painful rumors of what he had done. Partly assuming the (perceived) inevitable (which was untrue), and partly to satisfy our gossipy and inquisitive nature. When a letter did release about what happened, most people shifted from anger (how could he do that to his wife?) to apathy or disappointment (Oh, that’s all it was?).

Anger? Who resigns over ‘anger issues? So you were short or rude a couple of times? Aren’t we all like that?


True, we may all be like that. In fact, most of us probably struggle with anger issues of some sort. Maybe it’s traffic, rude cashiers, or the dog eating our slippers. We all have those pet peeves that get under our skin.

But I admire this guy. So determined to become like Jesus, he knew the only proper course was to resign, take a sabbatical, and spend time healing himself, his marriage, and his family. For him, anger was no small sin. It was a gulf of emptiness that separated from Jesus and he didn’t want that in his life.


What about you? Do you rank sins? Are you guilty of tolerating ‘small’ sins in your life and only worrying about the big ones? Are you content to avoid the big pitfalls even though you continue to hit small potholes? Because small potholes never stay small. They grow, change, and consume even more until they are addressed, remedied, and fixed.

Don’t let the myth of ‘small sins’ get in the way of your pursuit of Jesus. Do whatever it takes to weed out everything in your life that goes against Christ’s nature. Don’t stop until it’s gone, no matter how small.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • mike

    This might aid those who need more definative help and wish to explore this topic in depth:


  • I find that the sin hierarchy also comes into play outside of simply leadership accountability. And I think you hint at that in your article as well. We argue and fight over homosexuality issues while we let things like gossip, slander, and factions slide (three things usually included in the Pauline lists along with homosexuality). If we’re going to “stand our ground” on the one sin… why aren’t we on the others?

  • I certainly do. And it’s something that God challenges me on every day. One hierarchical one that I struggle with is gluttony. My relationship to food is just as important to keep in check as my marriage. Being unhealthy in that way can hurt my marriage and many of my other relationships. Gluttony is as harmful and hurtful as being an alcoholic.

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