30 Jun Why “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” Isn’t Working
The past few days have made me sad. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, comment threads on news articles, conversations outside Starbucks…everywhere I look, everywhere I am, I hear anger. Hatred. Even rage.
At the same time, I hear hurt. Pain. Sadness.
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding homosexual marriage, it’s all over the place. I know you’ve seen it too.
I’m not assigning a certain behavior, action, attitude or feeling to one “side” or another. I see it all on both “sides” of the issue.
This past week, I’ve heard one phrase more than almost any other. I’ve seen Christians, even well-intentioned, compassionate, grace-giving Christ-followers, use this phrase:
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
But is it working? I don’t think so. I think if we’ve learned one thing in the past week, it’s that this isn’t realistic. It’s not healthy. And it’s not pointing anyone to Jesus.
Why? Because we aren’t strong enough to do that. We aren’t strong enough to truly love the sinner but hate the sin. I know I’m not. See, there’s nothing inherently wrong at all with hating an objective sin, but when it’s tied to a person, we don’t have understanding enough to truly separate the two. We don’t have enough compassion to truly separate the two. So whether we mean to or not, we wind up hating the sinner because of their sin. It’s too easy to blur the lines between the two.
I’m not pardoning sin and I’m not condemning sinners. I’m not making excuses or looking the other way. I’m not suggesting in any way that we, Christians, should support sin, or smile and give a reluctant thumbs up.
I’m just saying, Church, it’s time for us to get this right.
God’s Word makes it clear that we are to love everyone. We are to love and give grace to all sinners because we are all sinners in need of love and grace (Romans 3:23).
And we are called to be like Christ, who is love (1 John 4:8; 4:16). We must remember that our duty as Christ-followers is to point people to Jesus.
I have a good friend who is gay. He loves Jesus.
I also have good friends who gossip. Some of them love Jesus too. I have friends who lie, cheat, and steal. I have friends who are gluttons. I have friends who are lazy. Selfish. Jealous. I’ve got friends who are prideful. I see or have seen some of these patterns in my life as well, more often than I’d like to admit.
The thing is, the more I get to know Jesus, and the more I learn how much He loves me enough to die in my place to make forgiveness available to me, the more I hate the sin in my own life. I don’t need anyone else to hate it for me. I’m guessing you don’t either, really. It’s hard to know much about Jesus and not start to hate the sin in your life (Romans 7:15).
I tell that friend of mine who is gay that I love him. He knows how I feel about homosexuality. We’ve talked about it. I believe the Bible makes it clear that it is sin to live an active homosexual lifestyle (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). We’ve talked about it many times, but we still love and respect each other because we speak with kindness and respect.
The other day, he texted me. He thanked me for not turning my back on him. He thanked me for treating him with kindness. He said, “I appreciate the fact you’ve never tried to preach at me like it hasn’t been something I’ve wrestled with my whole life.” Then he called me his brother.
I fought back tears.
Partly because it means a lot that this friend of mine trusts me. Partly because what his words reveal is that so many have treated him just the opposite…
See, I’ve wrestled with this too. If I’m honest, I still wrestle with this. I wrestle with grace and truth because I love to hand out truth when it’s someone else’s sin, but I love to receive grace when I’m the one who’s sin or error is exposed. So it’s hard for me to reconcile in my own human understanding how grace and truth really work together, and how Jesus can be 100% of one and 100% of the other at the same time.
But this isn’t a post about sin, really. Enough people are writing about that. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.
What if, instead of “love the sinner, hate the sin,” we just love the sinner? Show them Jesus. Point them to Him and let Him work on them. Please know, I’m not suggesting we preach a weak or watered-down gospel. If we don’t give truth with grace, we are failing people who desperately need both. Speak truth, absolutely…live truth, even better. Do it all with grace and love.
It’s time to stop standing on a platform tirelessly arguing politics and start falling on our faces before God in prayer for His Spirit to work in and through us to be a source of hope, healing and light in a desperate, hurting, dark world. That’s how we’ll really make a difference in the world. Not by posting an angry message on social media, or by alienating people with hateful words. Not by making it darker.
By choosing to love instead of fight or argue or hate, we are not surrendering. In fact, we are doing the opposite. We are advancing the cause of Christ because in that moment we choose to pursue Christlike love for others.
There’s a picture I love. It’s the woman who was caught in adultery, lying in the dirt, waiting for her accusers to begin throwing stones. And in the background, Jesus is not standing, not walking…he’s running to her rescue.
Let’s not be people who throw stones. Let’s be people who run to those who are far from God, who pick them up out of the dirt, and who show them what true, Christlike love and grace look like. If the families of nine people, who in an act of nothing less than pure evil were murdered for no reason other than the color of their skin, can stand before the killer of their loved ones days later and give grace, how can we not? How can we give anything else or anything less?
This isn’t a pro-gay blog post. It’s not an anti-gay blog post either. That’s not the point. This is a pro-grace blog post. This is a pro-love blog post. Just a reminder, a plea maybe: let’s please, please point people, gay, straight, or whatever, to Jesus.