In the early morning hours, the Lord brought an article to my attention: Debunking the “Love the Sinner. Hate the Sin” Myth. I know I could just say, “I noticed” or “I read” and not bring the Lord into it, but don’t you believe that God leads us? Plus I’m going to need as much divine support as possible with this post. I will be taking on one of the most beloved “sayings” of the modern church, “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” The article I mentioned laid out three very good reasons to consider this idea a myth. I’ll add some of my own.
Did you know that “Hate the sin. Love the sinner” isn’t from Jesus or the scripture. It’s quote from Mohandas Gandhi, who may have been quoting Augustine.
Justin Lathrop correctly points out that “Jesus has never been about hate. Jesus talks about love and grace and mercy, but never hate. So introducing hate into the conversation is automatically a deviation from His teaching.” Jesus didn’t shame people. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman at the well or the prostitute in the square. He loved them and gently guided them into a new life. Finally, are we really suppose to be the sin police? “We aren’t responsible for fixing, removing, or condemning someone’s sin. We’re responsible for love. God takes care of the rest.” I would note we ARE responsible for fixing, removing, and condemning our own sin. Something only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s such a big job you would think we would have little time for the sins of others. Not so.
Here’s my take. Sin is not good. Sin is bad. Sin separates us from God. Without a recognition of OUR sin we can not come to repentance, conversion, and sanctification. So what’s wrong with “Hating the sin and loving the sinner.” Here goes:
1. We discriminate. We don’t apply this to everyone. If we are all sinners, and we are, we should HATE something about everyone. That’s a lot of hate. Think about it. “I love my wife, but I hate her sin.” “I love my grandkids, but sure hate their sin.” We don’t think like that. We hate public sins. We hate the sin de jour. We hate sexual sins. We aren’t too concerned about gluttony or gossip. We hate murder. We have less problem with haters. That’s too close to looking in the mirror.
2. Hate is not suppose to be our trademark. Jesus didn’t say “By this will they know you are my disciples, by the way you hate sin.” Wasn’t that what the Pharisees were so good at? They were not Jesus’ favorites.
3. Sin hating is not productive. Okay so we hate sin. Now what? Do we stand on street corners and yell about people going to hell? Do we talk incessantly about “sin?” Do we shake our heads at all the sin we see around us? Do we focus on the sins of others including those we love and fail to see their small victories over sin through Jesus? The sad truth is that the answer is “yes.” All too often we do all these things. Love, unconditional love, produces more life change than all the condemnation we are capable of. For people to know Christ they need to know us, if we are Christ bearers. We need people to be closer and more comfortable with us, not estranged and put off. Our occupation with the sin of others, (forgetting about our own) makes us clearly the hypocrites the world claims us to be.
4. We are no good at separating the sin from the sinner. We say we are to love the sinner, but we don’t. We treat the “sinner” differently. We consider “them” not one of “us.” We are afraid that we or our children will be soiled by contact with “them.” If we don’t want to associate with sinners, we better find us a dessert island.
We should not be blind to sin. In fact, we should be much more aware of sin, especially those sins that we ourselves specialize in. If we can notice that we ALL sin, we will be less likely to apply the “hate the sin” procedure. We will be more empathetic, better lovers, better carriers of Christ light.
It’s a question of focus. Sure we hate sin. We should just spend more time on the “loving the sinner” part. That’s where the life changing action is. Hate is not fun, productive or blessing producing even when the object of that hate is “allegedly” sin and not the sinner.
Mohandas Gandhi was a good guy, but I think I’ll go with Jesus and what He said and did.