Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin’

I like this . . .

This is a quote I ran across while researching a completely different topic.  Still, I felt it an appropriate word of caution, especially given our socio-political climate today.

“Hating the sin while claiming to love the sinner too easily spreads hate in the world, because I am convinced that hate is just too strong a human emotion for us to keep under control.  We, as humans, are not disciplined enough to handle our hate, and when we give into it, it becomes a white-hot consuming fire within us that blinds us to all else . . . If we are going to hate anyone’s sin, the only person whose sin we have a right to hate is our own, and that’s it.  And yet, I place a word of caution in even doing that – the same slippery slope that applies to hating the sin of others also applies to ourselves.  We too easily slide from hating our sin to hating ourselves, and a people who are full of self-hate are going to find it very difficult to love anyone.”

~ A.J. Thomas (from a sermon series entitled, “That’s NOT in the Bible”)

Matthew 5: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV)

Romans 1117 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. . . .23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (ESV)

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23 thoughts on “Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin’”

  1. That phrase always makes me feel uncomfortable. I understand the thought, but I doubt that those to whom it refers make the distinction. How about we just love them?

    1. “I understand the thought, but I doubt that those to whom it refers make the distinction.”

      Yup, I think that’s exactly the point the author is trying to make! Well stated.

  2. I don’t think I’m the exception to the rule, but I am very capable of loving the sinner and hating the sin. I think we all are. As a therapist I always have to separate behavior from the person, their spirit or their core – the essence of who they are. None of us is perfect, we are all sinners. We have this in common. We are all struggling to do and be better. We’re all learning. So, what’s not to love? I love everyone because I can reduce them down to their spirit. We’re not born bad – we slowly make choices, some for good and some for evil. That’s the human condition. Recognizing that struggle in ourselves helps us to be more compassionate with others. I think it’s easy to love the sinner and hate the sin. Very easy, especially when you know the sin will not lead to happiness. It makes me sad when we/I choose the wrong way. I’m rooting for all of us. I really am. So, I guess I disagree with the quote. : / (I hope I didn’t read it wrong?)

    1. Nope, I don’t think you read it wrong at all; and thanks for the comment! I guess my question to you would be when you say, “We are all struggling to do and be better. We’re all learning. So, what’s not to love? I love everyone because I can reduce them down to their spirit.”; why can’t this be the sum total of our interactions with each other? If we’re truly called simply to love God and love others why does “hate the sin” even have to enter into it?

      What I get out of the quote is that our human nature can so easily slide into going beyond hatred of sin/loving the sinner into comparison of sins: “Well yes, I’m a sinner, but at least I’m not like THAT guy!” (Luke 18:9-14) It’s also easy to be aware of our own sins and slide into self-hatred rather than simply recognizing our sin nature for what it is and, like Paul, realizing that it is this sin nature within us and not the real US.

      Thanks again for stopping by and for your comments!

      1. I think we are trying to be more like our Father in heaven. He loves us all. We are his children. There is opposition in all things. The sin represents our mortal/natural man. I think it’s okay to hate the sin because it does not lead to happiness or our salvation. It thwarts us on our journey. To return to live with him we must “Sin no more.” I totally agree that some people are prone to putting values on sin “Mine is better than yours, etc.” No one’s sin is better than the next guy. I think if we concentrate on separating the sin from the person we can easily apply that to ourselves and keep our spirits in an untarnished place. We are always whole, and beautiful and lovable. We are part divine because our Father is God. So we should never shame ourselves or feel that we are less than or not good enough or bad. That’s not true. I think, if I can be so bold… the adversary would love for us to get stuck hating ourselves. Talk about a detour or stumbling block! We MUST love ourselves in order to be of service to each other, to love each other and stay on our path. 🙂
        We are commanded to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Yes, we will fall, but we can’t let those falls define us or keep us stuck. Brush yourself off and keep going, we are loved beyond our comprehension. 🙂 That’s the only message that should be playing in our head. It’s all good. 🙂

        1. Yes! No shame and no blame to anyone! Satan, if I may be so bold, would love us to fall into hate. Oh, heck, after last week…I have a son at MIT. He’s already endured a campus shooting. He is safe. Some were not. I cannot fall into hate. I must fall into compassion and keep heading towards the light. I do hate what happened. and happens each day, but I cannot hate anyone God created.

          1. Well said . . . and praying for your son. That can’t be an easy thing to come to grips with. College campuses are friendships and parties and beer and . . . oh yeah, studying (I went to the Univ. of Idaho; what can I say 🙂 ) You’ve got an amazing (and correct) attitude!

            1. I when to the University of Montana…in the late 70’s and early 80;s. I can say much the same thing, but must add football. LOL. He’s fine, my son. He lost a friend to the shooting at Wesleyan three weeks prior to his graduation. But this lost friend and he had another friend in common. They helped each other grieve, and I suspect that in a year or so, when he completes his 5 year PhD program at MIT, well, the mutual friend will become my daughter-in-law. She’s fabulous! God does work in mysterious ways!

  3. To be honest Kent I’m conflicted about the quote. I agree with the author that we have trouble with letting “hate” take the lead. Too many people have used God’s truth to beat others up – a trend from the not too distant past when “hellfire and brimstone” ruled the day. But it seems to me that lately (last 20 years) the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme where God loves/accepts everyone and wouldn’t let anyone end up in hell. Jesus came full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The ugliness of sin is that it tarnishes the glory of God and separates us from Him. Jesus lived out that perfect balance of grace and truth which sometimes was very compassionate and at other times rather harsh and abrasive.

    Again, I agree with the author that we don’t handle the emotion of hate well and what he’s offering is a “caution” but I don’t believe that discarding our struggle with it is the best solution. If we are following Jesus to become like Him then we will be continually learning how to live out “grace and truth” along the way. Given that we won’t get it right all the time, I would prefer to err on the side of grace; but I don’t think we should discard learning to walk by the Spirit’s lead in how to live out a God-honoring balance.

    I also understand and agree with his observation that even with ourselves we can tend to be rather harsh. I know because I’ve been there and still struggle with it at times. But in Romans 7 we see Paul loathing himself because of his struggle with sin. But Paul doesn’t stop there. It leads him into chapter 8 where he speaks of there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1); and then he elaborates on what it looks like to live life in rhythm with the Spirit. The closer I get to a holy God the more I become aware of the depth of my own depravity – or capacity for it; but I know that God’s grace is sufficient (from Paul as well – 2 Cor. 12:9). In fact, my appreciation for God’s grace has grown in proportion to my awareness of my sin (truth). One without the other is dangerous. May the love of God be our foundation as we continue to struggle with the balance and how that gets lived out towards others.

    Didn’t intend to go on so long but it did stir my soul. I realize I’m only reflecting on a portion of what the author shared so may be missing something that would be there in the larger context; but always appreciate the chance to dialogue with you about our journey of following after Jesus! Thanks Kent!

    1. Hi Rick: Always good to hear from you too!

      “But it seems to me that lately (last 20 years) the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme where God loves/accepts everyone and wouldn’t let anyone end up in hell.”

      I agree and I’ll clarify that neither I nor the author (to the best of my knowledge) is advocating a Rob Bell “Love Wins” situation. The Bible is quite clear on the consequences (good & bad) of our decisions.

      I also would make a distinction between “hatred” of sin and “recognition” of sin. What I get out of the authors post (the link is attached at the bottom) is that it is too easy a de-evolution of human nature to want to think better of ourselves by thinking worse of others. It’s really easy to condemn the gay couple fighting for marriage rights, but forget that we ourselves are condemned as well (apart from a Savior). I also tend to read Romans 7 that way as well . . . one of my favorite Biblical passages, BTW: even Paul had a “thorn in (his) flesh” and constantly wrestled with sin, and HE’S PAUL!! However, the way I read Romans 7 is not as hatred, but as a recognition of our sin nature as well.

      What I take away from this quote is that we all, WE ALL, will struggle with sin until Christ comes to make all things new. This doesn’t mean we have to beat ourselves, or others, up about it! 🙂

  4. Very thought-provoking post and comments – I love posts like this!

    I disagree with the author, however; especially the following portion of the quote –
    “We too easily slide from hating our sin to hating ourselves, and a people who are full of self-hate are going to find it very difficult to love anyone.”

    Before coming to Christ, I hated my sin and myself because I viewed them as one and the same. The Bible explained to me that I was not my sin; that I could be free from that aspect of myself, which was the root of my self-loathing and that which made joy, peace and hope impossible for me to have. Discovering that their was a “dead man” inside of me named sin, and that I could be rid of him, was the most freeing discovery of my life.

    I believe the complete opposite of the portion of the quote I copied above – I can love myself and others only because I am able to view the person and his sin as essentially two separate beings – the “old man” and the new man that desperately wants to rid himself of the old man. I love the potential new man, but I HATE the dead man that’s trying to drag him into the grave.

    “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (Romans 7:17)
    “…Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

    1. Thanks for the great comment.

      I think as well that you of anyone would understand the growth and discipline involved in the realization that “you are not your sin” and the fallibility and perishability of this “earthly tent” we walk around in 🙂

      However, I also feel that there’s a level of ‘spiritual maturity’ involved in this process, and not all of us are to that point yet. And this is what I take away from the quote, especially the part that you excerpted above. I don’t think its inevitable that we slide into self-doubt and self-hate (which can be easily read into the quote), but it is by our very human nature that we are given the propensity to. I do believe that everyone along their walk of faith, especially in the tender beginnings, has doubted, been discouraged, or felt like a terrible example of Christ because they keep screwing up; that sin habit is just incredibly hard to shake. Even Paul was “given a thorn in [his] flesh by God to keep [him] humble.” It’s the gospel that gives us the knowledge that we can overcome our sinful nature and that real sin, and the real US, are two separate things. That’s why Paul’s admission and resolution in Romans 7 & 8 are so invaluable to believers; as you yourself quoted above.

      Once that understanding is made, the faithful can begin to have the mindset that you proclaim. For the mature believer, I think you’re dead on!

      1. Kent, I came across this quote this morning while reading “Mere Christianity.”
        “I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”
        ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  5. With all due respect to A.J. Thomas, I find it rather ironic that his words above are taken from
    a sermon he entitled, “That’s Not in the Bible.” Actually, the subject of hating sin is mentioned
    so many times in the Bible I can’t list them all here. Certainly, as followers of Christ, none of
    us want to be consumed by hate, however, consider the following: Ps 97:10-“Ye that love
    the Lord, hate evil…”; Heb 1:9–“Thou has loved righteousness, and hated inquity; therefore
    God hat annointed thee with the oil of gladness…”; Pro 8:13–“The fear of the Lord is to hate
    evil: and the evil way do I hate.”; Amos 5:15–“Hate the evil, and love the good…” And, of course,
    the Savior himself taught that no man could serve good and evil, for he would end up hating
    one of them.
    One can hate sin and still LOVE THE SINNER. In fact, because of my love for the sinner, I hate
    sin because of the sorrowful consequences I see the sinner experiencing.
    I am 62 and over the years I have witnessed such a dramatic shift in our society as people turn
    away from God. One of the most powerful doctrines of Satan today is his misuse of the words
    tolerance and acceptance. Those who stand for truth and righteousness are labelled as
    intolerant or “haters.” One of the signs of the last days is that good would be called “evil”
    and evil “good.” We are certainly witnessing that prophesy come to pass. I was interested to
    read something about the steps that lead to sin—-first we become familiar with it–(we see it
    repeatedly), then we endure it, then we pity it and, finally, we embrace it. Hate sin? You bet
    I do!

    1. Two things that I would bring up in response to your comments Maryann. First, the sermon series by A.J. Thomas was based on some of the commonly used catchphrases and expressions that many people use and mistakenly believe are taken directly from scripture. Although love of God and love of neighbor are definitely biblical, as is hatred of sin and hatred of evil, neither the phrase nor the ideology of “love the sinner, hate the sin” is, in fact, found in scripture. We are called to love . . . that’s it. Love God. Love others. Hate is neither required or necessary. Frankly, at least for me personally, I don’t care what your or anybody else’s sins are; we all have them and I love you anyway.

      Second of all I would be very careful in equating sin and evil. They are two separate things. They can be linked, and often are, but not necessarily so. In fact, “sin” can take on qualities of malice and evil but is most often translated from the original Hebrew as to “miss the mark”. I like this summation of sin by Dr. Lorraine Day;

      “In Romans 3:23 Paul says, “All have sinned and are wanting of (or deficient in – or fall short of) the Glory of God.” This means that we have failed to reach the divine standard. When God charges all with sin, He does not mean that all are guilty of heinous offenses, but that all are mistaken, all have missed the mark, all fall short of God’s ideal. Even man’s best efforts – their “good” deeds – are performed in error. A sinner doesn’t need to do anything that man may condemn in order to deserve his name of “sinner.” He only needs to fail to fully realize God’s high standard of holiness and glory.”

      We “all have sinned and are wanting . . .”, but does that mean we are ALL evil? I’m not sure I’d want to go there.

      1. Kent—appreciate your comments. I think there is a difference between “sin” and “transgression.” To sin
        requires knowledge. In order to sin, you must KNOW that what you are doing is wrong and then willfully
        do it anyway. A great example of this is Adam and Eve’s experience. Their choice was a transgression,
        NOT sin, because they had not yet partaken of the fruit of the Tree of KNOWLEDGE of Good & Evil.

        Regarding your comments about the relationship between sin and evil—-there are times in my life
        when I have been very aware that what I was doing was wrong and did it anyway. For me, to willfully
        and consciously participate in a sinful act is to turn away from God, and in that moment, to serve Satan.
        I believe that is evil. It does not make ME evil, but the action itself was evil and I needed to repent in order
        to have the spirit with me as fully as I had enjoyed it before the willful sin. It’s a wonderful feeling
        to kneel in a prayer of repentance and to feel the spirit fill your soul, witnessing that you have
        been forgiven because of Christ’s atonement. This is a lifelong process because we are not finished
        or “completed” yet, but our Savior is with us in every battle if we turn to him.

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