Further thoughts based on my post “Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin'” posted here . . .
In a discussion the other day with a group of fellow believers, the phrase came up, “love the sinner and hate the sin”. Personally, when it comes to this worn-out, tired ol’ phrase, I’m getting to the point of, “love the Christian and hate the saying”.
Christians too often use this phrase to allay their own feelings about a particular person, or group of people; trying their best to be nice, but in all honesty, unable to or simply refusing to relate on any level. (Can anyone say . . . the gay community for instance?)
In situations such as this, the phrase usually does nothing but provide a level of safe comfort (and distance) for the Christian, but only cold comfort for the person struggling in sin. As Tim Challies aptly puts it:
“Those words may help the Christian as he thinks about that particular sin, calling him to affirm the wrongness of the sin and at the same time to affirm the value of the person who commits that sin. But this phrase brings no comfort to the homosexual; because his sexuality is so closely tied to his identity, it is nearly impossible to believe that I can truly love him, even while I reject his sexuality. My words in effect say, “I love you; I hate you.”
We justify this phrase as being biblical, most often from the book of Jude:
22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (NLT)
Which the Amplified version puts more accurately from the original Greek:
22 And refute [so as to] convict some who dispute with you, and on some have mercy who waver and doubt. 23 [Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality.
By most all accounts, the phrase actually comes from St. Augustine in his Letter 211 (c. 424) which contains the phrase “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum”, and translates (roughly) to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” The only issue with use of the phrase within this context is that Augustine was referring to his own sin . . . of which, quite like us, there were many.
Hating the sin and loving the sinner thrusts upon us a huge level of responsibility. A responsibility very few of us are able to sustain. It’s simply too easy to slide into “hate” and away from “love”—hate is simply too strong, and too convenient, an emotion; just as it’s simply too difficult to separate the sin from the sinner—whether through our eyes, or the eyes of the “sinner” we’re speaking to (or of).
God hates sin, and that should be enough for us. God hates sin so we don’t have to. God hates sin because he can handle it. God is the ONLY ONE that can pull off, “love the sinner and hate the sin.” How do we know this?
Romans 5: 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Timothy 1: 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
John 3: 14b …so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Romans 3: 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,
So what do we do?
Well, like pretty much everything else within Christian religiosity, mankind has added too much baggage on to what should be a simple straightforward message and a simple, straightforward responsibility.
St. Augustine says, “. . . love for mankind and hatred of sins”. Jesus says, “Love your neighbor . . .”
End of responsibility.
And I’m sorry dear Christian, but your neighbor is gay…
Your neighbor is an alcoholic…
Your neighbor is having an affair…
Your neighbor is a sinner…
But then again, so are you…
…so you have that in common.