Further Thoughts on “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

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: 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 314b …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 . . .”

That’s it.
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.

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5 thoughts on “Further Thoughts on “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin””

  1. Hey Kent! I totally agree that the phrase has become a comfortable excuse for many and it is much more common for people to thump others with the truth of Scripture rather than love them as a human being made in the image of our Creator; but it sounds as if you’re advocating that we just completely ignore sin issues. To truly love someone is to want what is best for them and if sin is separating them from God or destroying their life (as alcohol almost did to a friend of mine) then I won’t ignore it; but I also won’t shun that person or avoid relating to them. I think the issue is that we are not taking time to build a relationship with others (especially if they embrace a sin or sinful lifestyle that we understand to be wrong in the eyes of God) so that we might at some point have the opportunity to share the grace and truth of the gospel – that we are all sinners but God has lovingly provided a Savior. Thanks for letting me think out loud with you brother!

    1. I think the issue is that we are not taking time to build a relationship with others (especially if they embrace a sin or sinful lifestyle that we understand to be wrong in the eyes of God) so that we might at some point have the opportunity to share the grace and truth of the gospel – that we are all sinners but God has lovingly provided a Savior.

      THAT my friend is the key to “speaking the truth in love”.

      My point is not to ignore the sin in people’s lives, but when we, either consciously or sub-, lump these folks together with their sin, it does no good and is actually more (most) harmful to building a true relationship with those either far from God or caught up in some sin habit. What I’m saying is that a separation needs to take place in order to build the type of relationship necessary to be able to speak into anyone’s life about sin; theirs, ours, whatever.

      We don’t need to ignore sin altogether, but to reach out to these people—to love on them, and show them grace our Father has shown to us—sin shouldn’t be in our line of vision. Think about our own relationship with Father and Son. Once we accept Christ into our lives, what does God choose to see in us? Our sin? Or His Son? Does that mean our sin is no longer there, or no longer a struggle? No. BUT, God in his infinite grace chooses not to see it in our lives anymore; only the covering garment of His Son and our Lord and Savior.

      And, though the argument will be raised that these people may not have crossed the line of faith and are covered by the blood of Christ; what should that matter to us? They may have! They may NOT have . . . yet! Most of us (Christians) have no idea about the faith journey or spiritual walk of most of them (the ‘sinners’ who’s sin we hate). Our biggest trouble is that we too often don’t take the time to find out; i.e. building that relationship. Personally, I think seeing the world through the eyes of Christ is the least we could do. After all, look at the people HE hung out with??!! Tax collectors, yeesh!

  2. Having a hard time equating the hating of sin in this world to being labelled as an unloving Christian who is out to condemn, or
    just trying to feel comfortable.
    There is an increasing spiritual sickness in our society stemming from “acceptance” of MANY behaviors that have been
    forbidden by God. Over the years we have become so “accepting” of sinful behavior that if you interview high school students, most of them no longer know the definition of the words “Chastity” or “Virtue”. There is a vast difference between the abhorrence of
    the sin itself and the person who is struggling with the sin. Perhaps if those societies who have destroyed themselves through moral decay had kept a clear recognition and abhorrence for sin, they would not have sunk into oblivion. It was certainly not enough for them that ONLY God hated the sin. To state that people who use the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” do so to “allay their own feelings about a particular person” suggests that you have the ability to read minds and hearts. Throughout all of this discussion and the many interesting comments, I have seen no one “lump” people together with their sin.

  3. I believe as a christan that we need to love everyone regardless, even if it is hard to accept others for who they are

    1 John 4:7-8 ESV / 288 helpful votes

    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    Yes, i do agree that people use hate the sin and love the sinner as an excuse, but if anyone loves God and wants to be obediant it is neccessary for one to get over themselves and try their best to love everyone, simply because God commands it.

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