Does Christ differentiate between the wicked and the righteous, or does he just throw us all into the melting pot of "sinners" and call us equal?
I ask this because I keep hearing the most serious of sins being salved by saying "well, all are sinners and have come short of the glory of God." That is certainly true, but I can't help notice that Christ himself frequently and bluntly divided people into groups.
There were those who were willing to repent. They were penitent. They had sinned. Some had sinned seriously. Some were like Joseph Smith who were not guilty of any malignant sin, but were guilty of things like "levity". But what mattered is that they were all sorry. They were willing to heed Christ's admonition to "sin no more". They were willing to come unto him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. While the Savior reproved these individuals, such as his beloved disciples, at times for their errors, his relationship with them was tender and personal. When he spoke, he knew and addressed their inmost souls. He loved them dearly, and the new testament accounts of his dealings these people radiate Christ's intimate, tender, personal love for these people.
There were also those that were rebellious and would not come unto Christ, even though his miracles clearly showed that he was the Son of God. Such were the scribes and the pharisees, the priests and the levites. Generally he treated these people very differently. He spoke to them differently. He frequently embarrassed them for their false teachings. He took their secret sins and declared them openly. He openly stated that in their hearts they didn't even believe in God. He openly called them iniquitous, and asked how they could hope to escape hell.
Now it is certainly true of both Christ's disciples and of the wicked pharisees that all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But in Christ's eye there were still a distinct difference between these groups and it shows up in every faucet of his dealings with them.
The same groups exist today, and we each get to choose which group we belong to. We need to let the reality that these groups are quite real sink in.
Yes, if a man is a sinner, he may repent and be saved. If a man is righteous, he may still fall. But there is a huge difference between keeping those crucial facts in mind and in pretending that there is no difference between the wicked and the righteous.
Christ treated the two differently. Do we doubt his good judgement? Should we question his interactions with others?
It is popular now to believe that to be christlike one must pretend that there is no such thing as the wicked, and no such thing as the righteous. But that isn't actually what Christ did. He clearly distinguished.
And this is important in part because the wicked will not repent when the righteous are pacifying and lulling them on in their iniquity. It is supposed to be the devil that lulls people away into carnal security. We must not be seconding his claims.
Those who are choosing to be wicked need to be warned, not lulled into carnal security. And those who are hardened in their iniquity as were the scribes and the pharisees often need to be warned against.
We need to stand up and say right is right and wrong is wrong. We need to stand by the proposition that a man or woman can change. But we must not back down on the truth that it is change that is necessary. We must not back down from the truth that wickedness never was happiness, and that wickedness really is wicked. How can we hope to save any of them if we can't stand firm pointing out the only way they will find peace in this life is change?
No one involved in serious sin truly feels good about themself. Not really. We must offer them the hope of change, not the false hope that change is unnecessary.
When we read the scriptures, we are reading about the requirements of change. Redemption comes on conditions of change. We must hold firmly to the teaching that change is both genuinely possibly and necessary. For if we will not offer them that hope, we can know that the adversary will stifle it. We are their life line.
This is what we must offer the wicked, we must point to Christ's words and unflinchingly insist that this is the only way to peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come:
3 Nephi 9:22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.