A Whole New Can o’ Worms Based on “Hate the Sin”

There’s been a lot of good dialog over the past few weeks based off of a couple posts I ran entitled, “Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin’”, and “Further Thoughts on ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’”.

One person in particular, my good friend Maryann took me to task on a couple different points throughout our commentary banter.  She has a huge heart and a vast knowledge of scripture, and she made some excellent points within her responses.

In fact, her last response has prompted me to answer her within a whole ‘nuther post which furthers our discussion of “Hate the Sin” and hopefully sparks more welcome comments and discussions.  For full context, I encourage you to take some time and read both of my earlier posts as well as the resulting commentary from Maryann, myself, and others.  But for now, from “Further Thoughts on ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’” she writes:

Having a hard time equating the hating of sin in this world to being labeled 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.

Maryann, I can see that you’re passionate about your love of humanity—of all us ‘sinners’—as well as your hatred of sin and evil.  I commend that, and essentially I think you and I are saying the same things to each other, just in different ways.

When you say, “Having a hard time equating the hating of sin in this world to being labeled 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.”, I get that and agree, but please don’t misunderstand, either in my posts or within my comments, when I advocate looking beyond the sin of someone in order to establish a real base of relationship.  Please don’t equate this with ‘acceptance’ of that sin.

Here’s where I feel we agree: as you’ve stated in a prior comment, “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 labeled as
intolerant or ‘haters’.
”  I couldn’t agree more, yet that is a double-edged sword: Those who speak out for love, for gentleness, for bridging the chasm between the children of God and a fallen world, are labeled as ‘accepting’ or ‘tolerant’ of the sin involved in those people’s lives.  This mindset is just as wrong as the other.

Did Jesus speak out with intolerance and nonacceptance   Of course; but look to whom he was most often speaking to: The very religious hierarchy who ‘Biblically’ determined right and wrong for the people they were charged with shepherding.  Why did He call them out?  They didn’t even have their own house clean. (Matthew 23)

Where I tend to step out on a limb in espousing my faith and belief is that, for me personally, I don’t see the recognition or acknowledgment of “sin” as a necessary component of the conversation at all: Or at least not until the invitation is extended by the other person.  Is this philosophy Biblical?  I couldn’t tell you; but in my heart it’s the right thing to do.  In addition, I think it’s cold comfort for someone to say, “Well, we’re all guilty of sin and all sin is the same in the eyes of God.”  This is both true and Biblical; however, at least in this regard, our (Christians) actions speak volumes louder than our words to a fallen world.   And no, I don’t think that I can read hearts or minds; but I can read societal trends and the op/ed pages of various media.  This isn’t divination or rocket-science; it’s simple compassion and empathy.  It was something that Jesus was hung on a tree for.  Sure, He had compassion and empathy, just for the ‘wrong’ people; at least according to the religious leaders.

How do I feel about my own sin?  I hate it. I hate how it has suppressed my relationship with God and others.  I hate how it has robbed me of self-esteem for pretty much my whole life.  But that’s MY sin.

How do I feel about your sin?  I don’t know, because I don’t know your sin.  Furthermore, I don’t have the right to know or feel anything about your sin until I am invited into your life by you and asked to speak to that sin, to you; i.e. speaking the truth in love.  Just because one person’s sin may be more readily apparent than another person’s does not give us the automatic right to speak out on that sin.  That’s not speaking the truth in love, that’s judgment.  Both Christ and His brother James were very specific on judgment.  (Matthew 7:1-2; James 5:7-9), and that is where I tend to step very warily if at all.

Now, in summation, let me be very clear:

  • Does this mean we don’t take a stand on certain relevant societal issues?  No, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that there will probably come a time when a Christian will be faced with a choice: to make a stand, or to make disciples.  Just how important is that stand? will be the relevant question.
  • I am also not saying that Christians who hate sin and evil, who speak out publicly on various sin habits, or who even have opinions on those habits, are inevitably being ‘haters’, intolerant, or judgmental.  However, not being judgmental and not being seen as judgmental are two very different things.

In my humble opinion, being seen as judgmental will rob not only the Christian, but potentially all Christians, from being able to speak into the lives of a fallen world about what is truly important; about Jesus, about God, about sin, about evil, about anything eternal.  Or, as Justin Lee puts it in his fine article, “4 Ways Christians Are Getting the Gay Debate Wrong”: “If we Christians can’t show more love and willingness to listen, it won’t change one person from gay to straight, but it will turn a lot of people against Christianity.”

And that would be a sin.

Related Articles:
Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin
Further Thoughts on Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
4 Ways Christians Are Getting the Gay Debate Wrong
When Christians Are Christianity’s Worst Enemy

4 thoughts on “A Whole New Can o’ Worms Based on “Hate the Sin””

  1. There are a lot of issues here, and I think I disagree with Maryann. (1) First, we have to decide if we can be sure we are right about a particular issue – after all there are legitimate different scholarly interpretations of many Biblical passages often used to discuss contentious issues. (2) Then we have to decide whether we should say something to someone else about those things (either specifically aimed at a person or group, or just putting our opinion out there), and if so, how we should express it. (3) Then we have to decide how much prominence we should give such statements among other things we say.

    I can’t help concluding that: (a) We have to be careful not to impose on others in a pluralistic society in ways we wouldn’t like them to impose on us. (b) We need to avoid legalism and any sense that morality is more important than God’s grace. We need to show love that comes from grace. (c) We are given the mission of making disciples and loving our neighbours, not, that I’m aware, being their personal conscience – Paul says we shouldn’t be judging non-believers.

    If we err, let’s err on the side of love and grace, and allow the Holy Spirit to do the conviction. Of course we should present truth when asked, if we can present it in a loving way, but mostly we will do better to serve our neighbour rather than criticise him or her.

    1. We need to avoid legalism and any sense that morality is more important than God’s grace. We need to show love that comes from grace…..If we err, let’s err on the side of love and grace, and allow the Holy Spirit to do the conviction.

      I absolutely love that comment. Thanks Unkle!

  2. Kent–thank you so much for your response to my posts. I so appreciate your graciousness and patience
    with me. I agree completely with your comment that we are saying the same thing in different ways. I think
    I am so passionate about this issue because I love truth and it is so disheartening to see the suffering
    around me as a result of sin. Some of my own children have had some real spiritual battles (don’t we all?),
    and it has been so painful to see. Please forgive me for suggesting that you read minds—that was my
    “unbridled” passion speaking, and it was wrong. Some of my favorite scriptures are the Epistles of John
    where he so clearly states the importance of loving our brothers & sisters–“If we love one another,
    God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” ( 1 John 4:12) When I say that I hate sin, I am not
    thinking of people. I am thinking of the darkness and reality of Satan and his influence. I have complete
    faith that Christ has conquered Satan and stands ever ready to protect and strengthen us. It IS a fine line
    we walk between recognizing good and evil to help us making our personal choices, and at the same time
    not condemning or feeling superior to those who choose differently.

    1. Your welcome Maryann, and thank you for your honesty in all your comments. I’ve loved our exchanges and look forward to many more! 🙂

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