If you have spent much time around a church or people who go to church or heard various “evangelicals” in the news then you’ve probably heard the go-to phrase, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.” I think I actually hate this phrase and here’s why…
Love the sinner
Here is a theological formula for us to think about: People are sinners –> Jesus loves people –> Therefore, Jesus loves sinners. It is clear throughout scripture that Jesus loves sinners, has relationships with them, and calls us to do the same. Often times we are pretty terrible at this but I am in complete agreement with its emphasis and focus. The love of sinner is the incarnation of grace. I have no issues with this part of our cliche.
Hate the sin
First off, none of us really hate sin like we should. Let’s be honest, we just don’t. Sure it makes us feel bad, guilty, and even ashamed at times and yet, we keep on sinning. It’s one thing to say we hate sin, it is something completely different to try and stop sinning, which leads to my next point…
Saying we “hate the sin” is a really easy thing to do. Actually, we don’t really have to do anything at all, we can simply say we hate it and then move on. Saying we “hate the sin” allows us to acknowledge the brokenness of sin while keeping a safe distance from the actual brokenness of the sinner. This keeps us from getting too personal about our own sin or the sins of others. It’s not unlike seeing someone hungry and telling her we hope she finds some food but don’t do anything to make sure she gets fed. Claiming to “love the sinner” but not do anything to help move the individual out of the brokenness of sin may not be love at all.
I would like to suggest the following change:
Love the sinner and help him/her to keep from sinning
Love the sinner
And help him/her to keep from sinning
Sin is communal because it not only separates us from God but from each other as well. The way in which we “love the sinner” is by walking alongside the individual through the brokenness of sin, his or hers and ours, into a place of reconciliation, restoration and wholeness that Christ promises. This is encouraging the pursuit of holiness through relationships in community. It’s helping each other to keep from sinning so we might avoid the hurt and brokenness that follows. This is messy. This is hard. This is personal. This is uncomfortable. This is loving the sinner.