3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin

I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin.

In fact, I haven’t done that for years.

I’m writing as a Jesus follower to fellow Christians here, and also to, oh, whoever else wants to listen in, fly-on-the-wall style, as I put down my fork at family dinner and stare at the table and wipe my mouth and swallow the lump in my throat and whisper, “Enough.”

And say a little louder, “Hey, guys? I don’t really buy what we’re selling.”

And sigh with a giant “ppffffttt” to be mature.

Because, enough already. It’s time to lose this phrase. For good.

But how shall we do it?

I know! Let’s turn it into a flea – a harmless little flea – and then we’ll put that flea in a box and then we’ll put that box inside another box, and we’ll mail that box to ourselves, and when it arrives? WE’LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER.

Yes?

Yes!

Oh. Not that easy?

SHOOT.

Alright, then. I’ll explain myself.

See, once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I believed in Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin as though it was the Gospel Truth. And the Word of God. And the Obvious Way to Love People while holding fiercely and unapologetically to the Path of Righteousness. To the Narrow Way.

But then I noticed that Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin had the opposite effect of what I intended. That, rather than feel loved, the folks at whom I was aiming it felt belittled. And judged. And hurt. And excluded.

So for a while, in good ideological, rule-following fashion, I tried to make that their problem.

I mean, knew I was being loving. It’s right there at the beginning of the phrase, for God’s sake: LOVE. So if they were intent on misinterpreting my love, was there really anything I could do about that?

But something about my friends’ hurt stuck in my heart and something about my insistent defensiveness caught there, too, and, although I tried, I couldn’t dislodge or ignore them. I kept imagining Jesus on the night before his crucifixion, on the night he was betrayed by one friend and abandoned by others, and I kept thinking about the way he used his time to give just one instruction: Love one another.1 That’s what Jesus felt was the Most Important Thing to drive home the night before his death. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

I kept wondering, when we say we Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin, do they know we are Christians by our love? And the answer I kept circling back to was No. A sad, aching Definitely Not. A certain No Way.

So I began to explore my increasing discomfort with Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin. To examine why I felt more and more ashamed when I held it as my rigid standard of love. To wonder where I was right and where I was wrong and where I needed to make amends. And to ask Love, which is God’s other name,7 to guide me.

And then, as always, Love changed everything, starting with my heart.

Along the way, I realized 3 things about Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin that made it impossible for me to parrot it any longer. Here they are:

3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin

1. Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin isn’t in the Bible. It’s a quote from St. Augustine, actually, “cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which translates roughly to “with love for mankind and hatred of sins,” and it has morphed over the centuries from Augustine calling himself out and hating his own sins, which he describes in depth in his Confessions, into something we use to point fingers at others.

And although he and I don’t agree on everything, Tony Campolo spoke my heart when he said, “I’m always uptight when someone says, ‘You don’t understand. I love the sinner. I just hate his sin.’ And my response is: That’s interesting, because that’s the exact opposite of what Jesus says. Jesus never says, ‘Love the sinner but hate his sin. Jesus says, ‘Love the sinner and hate your own sin, and after you get rid of the sin in your own life, then you may begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.2‘”

2. “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is made of 25% Love and 75% Sinner, Hate and Sin. And that ratio should tell us something. In fact, that ratio is the antithesis of Jesus’ life, Jesus’ words, Jesus’ actions, and Jesus’ friendships.

Does it really come as a surprise to us Christians that a phrase made of 1 Part Love and 3 Parts Sinner, Hate and Sin has failed rather spectacularly to deliver a love message? Because it’s not a love message, of course, despite what we tell ourselves. It’s a Standards message. A Moral Code message. And a big, giant BUT. We will love you, it says, BUT we will call you Sinner and watch you carefully to determine which of your actions are Sin so we can call you out and Hate those things.

Is it any wonder to us that the love message gets lost in there? Or that we’re missing the mark when we’re more concerned with holding people to a high moral standard than we are with loving them?

It’s OK, though, we say, because we call ourselves Sinners, too! See? We’re not saying we’re any less sinful. THAT’S THE JOY, we cry. That Christ has saved us from our sin. And don’t get me wrong, friends. I believe absolutely that I’m BOTH created in God’s own image,8 worthy of Divine Love just the way I am,9 AND that I sin. But here’s the problem. We act like the redemption message is predicated on being pulled out of the Sin Pit, and that it’s our job to make sure people understand they’re in the Pit, even if we have to pull them down and squash them into the mud for a while to make sure they get it. But what if we believe that the redemption message is predicated on Love? Divine Love. Selfless Love. Gracious Love. Love, love and only love? A Love so big and wild and free it embraces us as we are?

What if we, I don’t know, call people Beloved instead of Sinner? You know, as if we believe that “God SO LOVED the world He sent his son” instead of “God so despised sin…”

3. Jesus taught us to call people Neighbors,3 not Sinners.

Now, it’s not like Jesus was against name-calling or anything. He slung around Hypocrite, Fool and Brood of Vipers with the best of them.4  But I find it fascinating that Jesus reserved his name-calling for the religious community and never for the broken down or broken hearted. Never for the excluded. Never for the lonely. Never for the outcasts.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the sinner; Jesus tells us to love our neighbor.3 And then Jesus goes on to define our neighbors as those who are despised, rejected, excluded, ignored, and bullied.

Instead, time and time again, Jesus invites sinners to dinner,5 and accepts the offerings of prostitutes,6 and defends the most marginalized,3 and scatters the crowd that is intent on making the convicted woman pay for her sins.2

Now, at this point, some of you may be thinking, “But wait! The woman who was about to be stoned was told ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ but Jesus also told her to, ‘Go and sin no more.’ So what about that? What about repentance?” And, in fact, when I wrote recently about Sanctuary – about finding rest in little bits of Love that fall as steadily as rain but only hit us drop by drop – I received 4 separate messages from folks along these lines, all of whom noted this. “You’re not sharing the whole picture,” they wrote. “Jesus said to sin no more!”

And that’s true. That’s what happened.

[The crowd] said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. [The Law] commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus … said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” 2

And here’s what I think we Christians keep missing in this story:

Jesus defended the woman from the crowd. Dare I say it? Jesus defended the woman from us. The Righteous Stone Throwers. Jesus sent us away. And then Jesus – and only Jesus, without the crowd there at all – told her to sin no more. You know why? Because it’s Love’s job – and only Love’s job – to change people’s hearts. Jesus never – not even once – tells the crowd to tell the woman to go and sin no more. Because it’s not our job, folks.

At no time are we, the crowd, instructed to point out the woman’s sin.

At no time are we, the crowd, encouraged to exclude the woman.

At no time does Jesus beckon the crowd back and say, “I told her to sin no more, now you go tell people not to sin, too.”

The only instruction that we, the crowd, receive from Jesus is to examine our own lives for sin.

We usurp Love’s place and screw it all up when we pretend it’s our job to identify others’ sins and take it upon ourselves to tell them to knock it off.

the-good-samaritan-ferdinand-hodlerYou know what Jesus does tell the crowd over and over (and over and over) again? Throughout all of the Gospels? Jesus tells us to Love each other. To Love our neighbors. And that everyone is our neighbor.

This is no time for calling out sinners and sin. This is the time to call out Neighbor! And Friend! And to love on each other with extravagant grace. This is the time to create Sanctuary and to be the Good Samaritan who had no standards when he helped the man by the side of road.3 Just none. Except generosity and love.

And so, you see, it turns out I cannot love the sinner and hate the sin, because it’s not my job to root out either one in anyone’s life but my own. But I can become a home for Love, and I can Love my Neighbor, who, it turns out, is every single one of us.

And that is exactly what I plan to do.

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UPDATE: I’ve written an update to this essay. You can find it here.

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Alright, friends. What do you think? Is this on the mark? Or did I miss it by a mile? Agreements and disagreements welcome. I’d truly love to know your thoughts.

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40DaysofGraceLogoYou can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.

……….

1 John 13
2  John 8
3 Luke 10
 Matthew 23
5 Mark 2
6  Luke 7
1 John 4
8 Genesis 1
9 Romans 5, 8

Art Credit: The Good Samaritan by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)

……….

UPDATE: I’ve written an update to this essay. You can find it here.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
674 comments
  1. Let’s start from the beginning. The Bible is not the inerrant Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the human face of God. The Bible is a human document crafted by humans who were in many different times, cultures, situations, and using many different languages. The intent of most of these writings was not to be placed in a Holy Bible and given out to people as the Word of God for All Time. But you already know this you’ve just been ignoring the fact that it’s true. How do I know that you already know that the Bible is not the inerrant perfect word directly from God on High who handed it to us without a blemish or error or inconsistency? The same way you do. So ask yourself do you worship The Bible or do you worship God?

    How is it that I know that you already know this? You eat shrimp don’t you? The Bible forbids it. If you as a woman, or your daughter, or your wife had sex before she was married the Bible says she should be killed. You eat pork barbecue right? The Bible forbids it. You think slavery is wrong don’t you? The Bible says it’s fine. You think women are fully equal humans don’t you not the property of men right? The Bible says they are the property of men. According to the Bible God told people it was perfectly fine for them to go murder other people and take their land from them, but then elsewhere God says, love your neighbor as yourself and treat foreigners like family members. Hmmm, do you think maybe the people who wanted to gain from murdering others and taking their land put those words into God’s mouth?

    If it was all perfect from the very beginning why would there be any difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament? Why would Jesus say the sentence, “You were told this… but I tell you this….?” Why would Paul tell you that you don’t have to be circumcised? Why would Peter say, “Now I understand that anyone anywhere who reveres God is acceptable to him?” I could go on and on and on. But you already knew this you were just pretending that you didn’t.

    And as far as judging others goes let’s think about two prime examples from Jesus. First when the tower fell on those people, what was his response to those who made judgmental comments? “Do you think the people on whom the tower fell were greater sinners than you?” Or when he said to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye. That seems pretty straightforward to me about shutting your mouth in judging others.

    Then we come to Paul and others. He was writing letters to people in communities that he had help to found. He was responding to their questions and problems. He was not thinking that you and I were going to read the letters 2,000 years later and say that they are the inerrant perfect Word of God. He would be horrified at such a notion.

    Finally, God never takes away a human being’s free will does God? Nope. So let’s say a human decides to tell a story or write something down, and maybe even did have an inspiring thought or moment close to God that causes that human to see the Universe more broadly, lovingly, and better than before, maybe to even understand God better. If that human using the language available to him or her at that moment in time chose to write down his or her thoughts would the person be stopped by having his or her free will taken away, from putting in human ideas? human limited language concepts? human perceptions? No of course not. So stop worshipping the Bible, and start worshipping God.

  2. I am so sorry that so many have missed your message and continue to defend their right to judge and hate. I would further argue that there are biblical scholars who say the same sex love is not a sin. Being gay, transgender, bisexual, pansexual, non-binary, intersex, etc. is not a choice, it is a fact of birth. In fact if the haters could truly look at the spectrum of gender they would find themselves non-binary also. This is a great resource http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/03/the-genderbread-person-v2-0/

  3. So what do we do with this scripture?

    Proverbs 8:13

    “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

    Did Jesus not hate the evil of the ones making the Temple a “den of thieves” even while loving the people and the thieves and doing what was best for the people AND the thieves?

    I agree we should speak the truth in love, but the Word teaches and Jesus showed us that we can and should hate evil and want the best (agape love) for all.

  4. Let’s remember that addressing our errors and helping others address theirs is not playing into eternal judgment. One can still do these things and recognize eternal judgment as God’s call.

    Consider a priest or a pastor…they each tend to a flock (their parish) and help guide them in the right direction. If someone stops attending church regularly and the priest notices this, he is doing his job, and rightly so, by contacting the person and saying “Hey, I haven’t seen you for awhile. How’s everything going?” If it leads into the person expressing dissidence, the priest is also right in condemning that and encouraging him to get back on a righteous path.

    If the priest does NOT do this (as many don’t) then the priest isn’t being a good shepherd if he isn’t doing it intentionally.

    So many of us want to be free to sin but also free from the consequences of our sin. One prays that we face that consequences in this lifetime because if we have to face it in the afterlife, that’s going to be the real problem.

    Remember that Christ’s sacrifice for us was not a license for us to do whatever we wanted without consequences. What we choose to do is our choice, and if we love others, we should be willing to say something for the sake of their own souls…and for ours in fact.

  5. Now, I don’t consider myself a Christian or a religious person as such although I was raised as one in my early years. I do consider myself a spiritual person, and I do have a fondness for the caring and humanitarian words and actions of our friend Jesus. But this blog post is so right on – I even copied a few quotes into my journal because it is relevant to me right now to consider where I am being judgmental of others who I say I love, and focusing on loving them in spite of their sins, and feeling just a wee bit superior for it. “Love each other with extravagant grace.” That is a mantra worth its weight in gold!

  6. You have completely misread the Biblical references you cited.Jesus always told those he encountered to go and sin no more, which means repent!

    If one claims to be a Christian yet openly professes that he/she is engaging in some kind of sin and intends continue to do so, then that person is not a Christian. If you sin and teach others to do so, then you will have their blood on your hands.

  7. […] très libre de ce billet, qui vaut mille fois mieux que le pensum sentencieux que j’ai failli vous infliger. Non, ça […]

  8. 1. Looking at what Christ endured to rescue us from sin, and what sin cost him, I don’t think it would be appropriate to not hate sin, either in us or others.

    At some point we have to ask ourselves, is sin actually harmful. Not hating sin in others would be like not hating the cancer a friend is dealing with. How unloving would it be to be indifferent to a neighbor who is struggling with cancer.

    2. And, the opposite of “hate the sin and love the sinner” would be to “love the sin and hate the sinner” which is what many people do, that show hatred for others by telling them that their sin is not sin, robbing them of the motive to run to Christ.

    3. The cross is the greatest display of God’s hatred for sin and love for sinners. (Romans 3:23, 25, 5:8)

    4. In John 3:16, we see God’s hatred for sin, what is “perishing” anyway, but the judgment of God. God sent his Son, out of love, so that we would not perish.

    5. You lost me on the 25% 75& thing.

    1. Sir, did you even read the entire article? This brilliant thinker and writer is NOT saying we should LOVE sin. That is frankly a stupid conclusion on your part, though not surprising, given many Christians only see two options: (…the opposite of “hate the sin and love the sinner” would be to “love the sin and hate the sinner”)

      Please sir, read this section again and then again and tell me which part of this is at odds with the message of Christ!

      “The only instruction that we, the crowd, receive from Jesus is to examine our own lives for sin. (Notice: OUR OWN LIVES)

      We usurp Love’s place and screw it all up when we pretend it’s our job to identify others’ sins and take it upon ourselves to tell them to knock it off.

      You know what Jesus does tell the crowd over and over (and over and over) again? Throughout all of the Gospels? Jesus tells us to Love each other. To Love our neighbors. And that everyone is our neighbor.

      This is no time for calling out sinners and sin. This is the time to call out Neighbor! And Friend! And to love on each other with extravagant grace. This is the time to create Sanctuary and to be the Good Samaritan who had no standards when he helped the man by the side of road. Just none. Except generosity and love.

      And so, you see, it turns out I cannot love the sinner and hate the sin, because it’s not my job to root out either one in anyone’s life but my own. But I can become a home for Love, and I can Love my Neighbor, who, it turns out, is every single one of us.”

      Point is, the entire saying AND its opposite was and would NEVER be uttered by Jesus! It was not His way. And if Christian means ‘Christlike’ perhaps you should rethink your purpose here!

      1. Ellys, do you even realize that in the same thought process of emphasizing how important it is to LOVE people, you belittled Kevin’s response and called his conclusions “Stupid.” Your response would have been more salient if you had been a little less hypocritical.

        That being said, I agree with Kevin’s points. And yes, I read the entire article.

        1. Kevin is right, he simply pointed out the flaws in the argument. That he would be attacked seems ironic given the theme of the essay. I read the whole article as well, and I recall a wonderful verse that says we need to fear the Lord, and to fear God is hate to sin, Proverbs tells us. It’s good advice. The world would be a much better place if we rightly feared the Lord.

          1. Indeed.

            If this is about not being judgmental, isn’t it judgmental to suggest people are being judgmental without further thought?

            That would be ironic.

        2. Kevin’s conclusions were stupid. She didn’t say that he was, as a person.
          How does that constitute a hypocritical attack?
          Besides, Kevin is most likely a big boy and doesn’t need you to fight his battles for him.

      2. I’m afraid I’m going to agree with Kevin on this.

        This time, like all times, has been a time to call out sin and promote love, charity, and truth. In times like this, however, with morality falling away and truth being twisted, it’s not as easy to stomach.

        “This is no time for calling out sinners and sin. This is the time to call out Neighbor! And Friend! And to love on each other with extravagant grace.”

        I mean no disrespect, but if this is not time for it, then when is it the right time? Consider where the culture is going…consider the indifference of sin today. When do we stand firm and express our beliefs and call out sin? When do we help those who are trapped in it? When do we step forward and say to someone “I love you, and that’s why I need to tell you something about what you’re doing…”

        If we decide not to say anything and instead hug them, then we’re allowing the warm and fuzzies the overtake us rather than truth. We’re allowing feelings to overtake truth. We’re allowing false ecumenism to be the ruler and not true ecumenism. Ecumenism has no room for compromising truth. That is not true ecumenism.

        I agree with you that this is the time to reach out to all–friend or enemy, and call them our neighbors and help them…but part of helping them is telling them the truth and helping them see who God is and who they are meant to be for Him.

        We are called to love EVERYONE…literally. From our parents to our spouses to our siblings to our friends, to strangers, to co-workers, to our enemies, and even to ISIS…love them unconditionally, absolutely. Hope for their salvation, pray for them, be there for them even in the righteous and justly fashion…

        …but don’t neglect their need. One thing we cannot do is stand idly by and watch them cause harm to their own souls. We can’t stand by and let them fall away from God. How much would we have to hate someone to watch them do such a thing and not let them know? Not tell them what they are possibly doing to themselves? If we’ve been given the grace to understand the truth, it’s on us to do the right thing and say something. Not by casting judgment on them, but with total, unconditional charity.

        And if they get angry and reject it and even decide that you are now an enemy…so be it. This has happened to Christ often and, while we do not want it to happen, expect that it may happen. In John 6, thousands left Jesus when he spoke about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ. They were so upset and so offended, they left in droves. Jesus didn’t wish for it, but he let them go, allowing them the free will to go wrong.

  9. I should have included that we should remember that while we aren’t set as Christians to directly try to create division, we have to expect it.

    Remember what Christ said in Matthew 10:34: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” That sword isn’t literal, but to mean division.

  10. With all due respect…yikes.
    I think you are partially right. But you trailed too far from a few points that are especially important as Christians, and that’s that we are called to address the errors of the world, show where they are, and show to leave those errors and where to go. Especially with the decline of morality in today’s world, we’re really obligated as Christians to 1) reject immorality and practice virtue, and 2) bring others to Godly virtue…and there may come a time when we have to tell the person active in sin what is happening — the elephant in the room.

    In Matthew 18:15-16, it says:
    “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”

    You wrote “The only instruction that we, the crowd, receive from Jesus is to examine our own lives for sin.” But this goes against Sacred Scripture. In Matthew 7:4-5 it says:
    “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

    This passage is about not being a hypocrite, which I think you pointed out very well. But this doesn’t mean that we aren’t to help others who struggle with their sins, even if they aren’t aware of it. We have to first address ours so that we can help those who suffer through theirs.

    You said “We act like the redemption message is predicated on being pulled out of the Sin Pit, and that it’s our job to make sure people understand they’re in the Pit, even if we have to pull them down and squash them into the mud for a while to make sure they get it. But what if we believe that the redemption message is predicated on Love? Divine Love. Selfless Love. Gracious Love. Love, love and only love? A Love so big and wild and free it embraces us as we are?

    What if we, I don’t know, call people Beloved instead of Sinner? You know, as if we believe that “God SO LOVED the world He sent his son” instead of “God so despised sin…”

    With all due respect, this is so commonly the action many Christians take…whether it is pure naivety or fear of looking like a freak or a bigot or unpopular or a schmuck. The Christian message, indirect as it is, is offensive. We don’t evangelize with the intention to offend, but it does naturally offend people because it means having to point out that we are all sinners, both from origins of our souls and from our personal activities.

    How we do this is another story. Naturally we do this with reverence, with charity, with total mercy that Jesus had. And while God alone judges each of us according to our sin, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to discern and know virtue from sin. And by proclaiming it and helping others and even making others aware of their sin and helping them see their potential of sainthood, Jesus did not leave this responsibility out of our hands…he expects us all to carry on what He did.

    In John 20:21, it says: “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

    There is nothing that Jesus did on earth that restricts every man from doing other than simply being God in the flesh. Christ lived as the perfect example and, what he did when he told others to sin no more, was commanded to us to continue, albeit while also living holy lives and rejecting sin.

    While the phrase “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is misunderstood from St. Augustine’s phrase (and also used by Ghandi as we understand it), the other extreme is to almost shrug off the sin of someone else and act as if it never happens…as if they aren’t causing harm to their souls…as if we aren’t our brother’s keeper.

    There is nothing loving about doing that. The loving thing to do is 1) live the life that Christ wants us to live, but 2) tell and be there for those who are damaging their own souls. That is true love. And it isn’t popular. There is nothing popular about loving your enemy…perhaps it is to a stranger who sees it from a far, but ever tell your friends or family that you are going to help out someone who totally ripped you off or did something horrible to you? Many times, they get angry; “Don’t do that! That’s stupid! That person treated you like garbage and you’re going to do what for them??” Ever spoken up against homosexual activity or abortion in front of those you know would disagree? Many times, they not only disagree, but they get very angry with you and begin to besmirch you. And while doing all of these things can be rooted in some form of sin (be it pride or something else), doing these things for the mere reason that Christ loves virtue and hates sin is a good reason.

    This is why there have been so many martyrs. This is why so many of them were killed. In fact, this is why Christ was martyred…because “nice” people don’t want to hear the truth.

    I’m a coward so often. I’ve had so many opportunities to do what God would have wanted me to do, but instead I hid away and said nothing. “Oh, they’ll think I’m being hateful.” “They wouldn’t understand.” What the hell am I so afraid of? Why are so many of us Christians always so afraid to say the truth and live by it? Naturally, we’re crippled from our sinful nature. But we’re called to be saints, and we are able to do it. No one is stopping us from doing it but ourselves.

    “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin,” has its flaws, but then again, so does “Love the Sinner by ignoring the fact that they are sinners.” I suspect you didn’t mean the latter, but that’s the result we get when we decide that it is not our place to address the errors of the world, even if it means pointing it out to someone else enslaved by his own sin.

    1. You should have wrote this article!

    2. The most valuable thing you said was the reference to the story Christ told about the mote and the beam. Yes this story is about hypocrisy, AND the there is another very important point you are missing. The story doesn’t say, get the mote out of your own eye before looking to remove the mote from another’s. THAT would be a directive about hypocrisy. Christ’s point is this: The moment you think it is your job to judge, point out or correct someone else’s sin, STOP and focus on YOUR OWN sin –which is SO MUCH greater you will not have the time to point out or judge anyone else. This is exactly what this blog is pointing out. Christ’s purpose was NOT to show US how to point out sin in others, but to deal with the even bigger sin in ourselves!

      1. With all due respect of course, your right that the passage is addressing judging others, but in its fulness, it is addressing hypocrisy — which is why Christ said in verse 5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,” and then he followed it up with “and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

        That speck from our brothers eye is his errors. We aren’t supposed to leave him blinded and call that neighborly.

        While we can never judge a person — that is God’s call — we are given, through the Holy Spirit, the discernment to recognize right and wrong, so we do judge actions. If we so someone doing the wrong thing, we help him in trying to do the right thing because we love him.

        If we address our own sin and then let those around us sin without even trying to help them, then we have fallen into a new sin, and that is not loving our neighbor as we should. Let’s say Joe Schmoe is promiscuous but doesn’t realize he’s doing anything wrong because the culture he’s lived in has always taught him it wasn’t evil, then he is sinful of his own ignorance. However, if I see Joe doing this constantly and let him alone and not even try to help him see what’s going on and what’s he’s doing, then I may be the bigger sinner because not only do I know it’s wrong, but I’m allowing him to abuse his own soul.

        Our mission as Christians is to direct others to God, and being indifferent to one’s actions doesn’t do it, nor does is it loving. All it does is create confusion.

  11. I don’t particularly have a problem with the saying. I imagine most folks here love their parents, siblings and children. Let’s say your mom and dad murders someone. Are you going to stop loving your parents? Or are you going to continue loving your parents but hate what they did? Same concept as love the sinner but hate the sin, though I am surprised to see that the previous posting which made the exact same point was deleted. A shame that we cannot tolerate differing points of view.

  12. I do believe we are not to whitewash what sin is as Christians. The problem is that lost people do not know they are lost, and don’t want to hear that what they are lost in is sin. The part of hating sin and loving the sinner that most of us get wrong as Christians is that if we only show someone their sin and do not point out and introduce them to Jesus who is the only one who can save them from sin, then we have failed in loving them. However, most people don’t want to wait around to hear about the One who can save them, when they’ve just been told that the lifestyle they lead is sinful. Satan has made sure society has given man a reason not to believe that anything is sinful and that there are consequences. We are living in an increasingly dark time where lost people and Christians alike only want to hear what itches their ears, not their consciences. It is my belief that the only way to show someone their need for Jesus is to live out our need for Him and our relationship with Him constistently everyday, and unapoligetically.

    1. I’m sorry but I have to respectfully disagree on your point that people “don’t know they are living in sin”. There is not a person on this earth who doesn’t know right from wrong and that there are consequences to these actions. There isn’t a person left who hasn’t been subjected to at least one religious view point in their lifetime. Your interpretation of what a persons sins are is ONLY your interpretation. Some people just don’t care and happily “sin”.

      1. The problem that so many of you are having in understanding why this post hits the nail on the head boils down to the fact that you define as a “sin” what for a small percentage of human beings is their natural state of being. It’s as if you replaced gay with red-haired, and called being red-haired a “sin”. People with red hair would naturally feel alienated by those who said to them “I love you, but I hate your red hair, and I feel compelled to tell you so so you don’t spend eternity in hell”. Can you even begin to understand that? Because you are talking about God-given ability to discern right from wrong, as if those of us who are gay lack that ability and this need your input. Homosexuality is, in the space of the comments, compared to murder and theft. A glaring difference: murder hurts other people. Theft hurts other people. That’s why even those moral compass-less atheists can discern that these acts are wrong. Me being gay doesn’t cause harm to other people. Furthermore, murder and theft are acts of choice. Being gay is something separate from the act of gay sex-which I understand is the especially sinful part, and I’ll come back to that- but I am a gay person, just as someone has red-hair and is a red-haired person. Their love-making becomes red-headed sex; mine is lesbian sex. Occasionally I meet a condemning Christian who does understand that being gay is an immutable characteristic that I was born with, and that its a ludicrous assumption that anyone would choose this “lifestyle” which is often so difficult and painful to live. But even if I am born this way, I should not act on my homosexual desires, in order to preserve my eternal soul. The problem there is that just like straight people, I want to have a partner and a family and just have a normal life. I don’t want to be a nun and I don’t want to be alone. I have a partner that I love. LOVE. It doesn’t hurt anyone, like murder, or theft, or rape or slavery. So why is it that your discernment tells you it’s so important to tell me that my “lifestyle” is wrong? And how is it okay that my girlfriend’s Christian parents reject her? She is a beautiful, charitable, compassionate person. The Christian church makes people like us feel unwelcome, unloved, misunderstood, even hated. I don’t see anyone calling out far people they know on their gluttony by this same principle of love the sinner, hate the sin. It’s a special way of saying gay people are disgusting in our eyes and in God’s eyes (and I didn’t know God was even hiring).

    2. Cindy, an old saying about flies, vinegar, and honey comes to mind.

      If you think your job as a Christian is to tell people that they are “lost” and “living in sin” and that they are so lost that they don’t even know it, but somehow you- probably a total stranger to them, know better, then you’re gonna get one kind of response.

      On the other hand, you might think that your job as a Christian is to meet people where they are and do your best to love by the example of Christ Jesus- by doing things like talking much more about your own sins than theirs, or simply by not talking much at all, just being a good listener.
      Those things will get you a different result.

      There are millions of people all over the world who have been soured by unskillful witness to the point that they have thrown the Baby Jesus out with the Religious Bathwater and will not even consider that it has a meaningful place in their lives, and that’s a shame.

      One’s decision to follow a particular religious path is a personal calling, one that has no value unless it is made freely.

      Just remember, God is bigger than you. He doesn’t need your help, but your brothers and sisters here on earth do. Be there for them, as skillfully as you can manage.

  13. been saying this for a while. Although God gave us commandments to follow I believe they were directed as us as individuals—not as mandates for us to force others to follow. In other words, like the complaint that the U.S. sometimes acts as the police force of the world, Christians tend to take “Thou Shalt Not” and apply it to their neighbors—even though those neighbors are not Christians under God’s law.

  14. So what is sin and why does God hate it so much?

  15. A brilliant little article, Beth. Well done!

    1. Can you explain the 25% 75% thing?

      1. LOVE the SINNER, HATE the SIN.

        Love = 25%
        Sinner = 25%
        Hate = 25%
        Sin = 25%

        Love = 25%
        Sinner + Hate + Sin = 25% + 25% + 25% = 75%

        1. Forgive me for sounding like a nagging Nathan (I think I just made that up), but we could easily break it down differently.

          LOVE = 25%
          the SINNER = 25%
          HATE = 25%
          the SIN = 25%

          The Sinner is us. We are also potentially the saints…the messengers…the meek…the martyrs…the servants, despite our sin.

          HATE the SIN…this is justified hate. This is a hate we should have. SIN is always wrong, on all accounts. It’s separation from God in a very literal sense. We shouldn’t love it, but nor should we even be indifferent to it. We are supposed to hate sin absolutely.

          I’m not condoning the phrase itself, but if we wanted to break it down, we could also recognize “LOVE the SINNER, HATE the SIN” to really mean 100% LOVE. God is love. If the first part is to mean acting out, expressing, delivering and giving that same love to others, the sinner (all of mankind), and to do that also by hating sin, hating that divorce from God, then this is LOVE 100%.

          OK, so perhaps my break down carries over lots of grey ares; “Hate isn’t always justified” “What if the sinner is being regarded as such unjustly?” etc. But the point is one could easily look for and find these grey areas.

          The breakdown you gave, while I understand the point you’re trying to make, also has its flaws. I’m not suggesting the phrase is precisely the answer, but I’m not sure we’re in agreement as to why it isn’t.

          1. Gregory, I’ve been reading several of your comments. The thing I think is missing in many (all?) is that this article is not a theological dissertation. It’s a practical entreaty to look at how we interact with each other. You are parsing relevant and important theological concepts. There’s nuance there, absolutely. But that’s not the point. The point is that the phrase ‘LTSHTS’ and the resulting relational approach (as reported by recipients) is not loving. So many (so, so, so many) commenters are saying, “It’s OK, it actually MEANS _____”. But it is not received that way. I think of marketing. Know your audience. Tailor your language so that your message is understood. It’s interesting to me that so many are so unwilling to do something as simple as assess the approach.

      2. That’s a good observation, Jeff.
        I think you’re spot on with your marketing analogy. I think author of this article was speaking very generally, so I was too.

        That said, she did make a specific statement as if to suggest that we do not address something that is sinful that someone else is committing otherwise we risk losing their friendship and hurting their feelings. I still think this is severely wrong.

        Nonetheless, excellently put, Jeff.

        1. Thanks for the response. I didn’t get the message that the risk of losing friendships is the motivating factor. Can I ask which statement in the article you’re referreferring to?

          1. No problem.
            I don’t think anywhere in the article is explicitly said that the motivating factor would be the loss of friendship, though that is the result of these methods, at the cost of telling the full truth.

            For instance, the line “Jesus taught us to call people Neighbors, not Sinners,” is it suggesting that we aren’t supposed to acknowledge that we are all sinners? Is it suggesting we can acknowledge it, but only in regards to ourselves and no one else? If so, then how does one evangelize without bringing this up?

            Based on the article, it seemed to be suggesting that calling someone a sinner is much more divisive than calling them a neighbor, so it’s better to call them a neighbor.

            I actually do agree that the term “neighbor” is far less divisive — it goes without saying. Of course, not everyone is our neighbor, just going by Biblical understanding of the word (it refers to fellow-israelites, and kinsmen, and spouse, etc). Jesus also distinguishes neighbors from enemies when he tells us to love for our enemies.

            But even regarding out own neighbors, they may be that, but it doesn’t mean they are no longer sinners. I don’t think the author was suggesting they weren’t, but unless I’m mistaken, I think she’s suggesting to avoid the fact that they are sinners too…and doing that would be a half-truth.

            It’s possible that I misread the article and I suspect the author didn’t even mean that the main focus was to keep friendships, however, that’s the result you get, whether it be intentional or unintentional — it’s what it boils down to.

            I think about all those times I had a ‘premo opportunity to evangelize but didn’t, and the reason why I didn’t was because I knew it would offend them…it would rub them the wrong way.

  16. no don’t even question what you’ve written you are more than spot on its something ive been trying to say the fact that you make the point that its not even scriptural that is the key everthing we say and do or have an opinion on must be from scripture other wise its empty words keep reading the word and as often as you can and remember to ask the holy spirit for guidance and revelation its a key ingredient to reading the word prayer however long or short it is well done

  17. Spot on! Judging is for God. That is an authority no human has. But love is the part of His work we all get to share in, and, frankly, it’s a lot more fun.

    1. So, Karen. When someone rapes your child, do not judge them but love them instead. It’s more fun. That’s what I get from your logic.

      And don’t teach your children any rules of safety. You might injure their love recepticles.

      Let’s not elect or appoint judges. We’ll just all love one another instead, like the Beattles, the acid dropping hippies and the rest of that flower generation that brought us to this blissful utopia in which we live today.

      And for HEATHER, good grief, what an unbalanced view you have of scriptures.

      1. George, I don’t agree with you, but I love you just the way you are. I know God made you and he wants me to love you because you are my neighbor. I love you, George.

      2. George, I think Karen is meaning we should leave final/complete judgement for God. I can make a temporal judgement such as, “This person is a rapist/liar/theif/’fill in whatever you want’. Thus I don’t trust them with my kids/house/emotions/’fill in the blank’.” But to make a blanket judgement of “That is a bad person who deserves bad things” is not something I can do. I don’t know the heart and soul of the person like God does. For all I know the child abuser who hurt someone I care about was once abused as a child. Does that excuse what he did? Absolutely not. But I can’t POSSIBLY know all of the factors and choices that led him to where he is now. Only God can, and final judgement is reserved for Him, and Him alone.

        But I do believe in laws of the land and holding people accountable for their actions in this life. But to hate someone in my heart is wrong. Loving someone doesn’t mean trusting them ever again, nor even wanting to see them or associate with them. But hating them is not right. And sometimes it is so incredibly hard NOT to hate people when they’re done horrible things.

        And maybe I’m wrong, maybe Karen did mean what you thought she meant. But I just wanted to share my thoughts either way. 🙂

  18. I was actually thinking this recently. Very timely and brillian, as we are in an age where accountability is immaterial.

    It is tantamount to lets live together, copulate, but no get married.

    Keep up the good work.

  19. Don’t particular have a problem with the phrase. You can easily love someone while hating something that they did. I imagine most of us love our parents, siblings or children. Well let’s say that your mother or father kills someone. Are you going to stop loving them? Or will you continue to love them but hate what they did?

  20. […] Source: Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids » 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin […]

  21. […] I have a question. One sort of spawned from reading this article by Beth Woolsey entitled, 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin.” […]

  22. 19434 hwy 321

    For me, the senselessness of this common phrase became aparant when I can to understand ‘sin” as missing the mark, falling short, or perfection, and that as disease ad illness are a departure from perfect wellness in the physical body, sin is a departure from perfect wellness in the soul. Sin is to the soul as physical illness is to the physical body.

    If that be so, then shouldn’t I view ‘sin’ in a similar light as physical illness? As often, evidence of a wounding, injury, to the soul?

    If we substitute “illness” for ‘sin” in “love the sinner, hate the sin,” consider how we are toward, say, cancer. Don’t we all hate cancer? Are we, toward those suffering cancer, as we are those suffering wounding and illness in their soul?

    1. In this analogy, everyone has cancer, including you, and you’re supposed to be looking to treating your own cancer first. (relevant scripture: Matthew 7:1-5). Trying to focus on the cancer of others is like denying you have cancer at all, which is the height of hubris, which is also a sin in and of itself.

      It’s kind of like in those airplane safety videos, if the oxygen masks fall, you need to worry about yourself before providing assistance to others. If you try to assist someone else without first attending towards your own well-being, you will only pass out and put BOTH of you in danger. Kind of like that, except we’re ALWAYS putting on the oxygen mask throughout our lives. None of us are sinless.

      Let God handle the Judgment. Your only job is to love your neighbor. No ifs, ands, or buts. And that’s something everyone, myself included, needs to work on.

      1. WOW! What a great analogy. Thanks.

        1. So Rob & Cindy, when my neighbor molests my child, I will love him. I won’t judge his act as evil because then I would be a bad Christian.

          When my children misbehave, acting badly toward one another, I cannot correct them because I can only correct myself. What a good parent I am.

          And law enforcers and judges, let’s get rid of them. After all, they’re just sinners like the rest of us. As far as lawbreakers, they just need our love and understanding.

          No wonder the church is looked at with rolling eyes. Either it goes to the extreme of legalism and presumption, or it takes on the ridiculous philosophy being advocated here.

          1. The rape/murder comparisons are worthless here. Those acts are not only sin, but criminal acts harmful to others. What we’re talking about here is sin against god and self, and not others.

          2. Strawman fallacy.

  23. this is simply awesome, thanks for sharing it

  24. jesus didn’t occupy himself with correcting people, only as that really helped ’em in the moment and in their journey forward. he really helped people. according to all the stories i have read in the bible. and he never used the words “sin” or “sinner”. those are mistranslations. and Agape (ah-gah-pay) means something far more profound than what we mean(variously, btw) when we say “love”.

    glad you took a step away from the christian scam trap that so many want to stay stuck in.

    being a good human being means to love one another unconditionally. anyone you can’t give unconditional love to you have another (not of the same kind) relationship with. such relationships should be valid.

    but the way i read the stories and teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef now, post fundamentalism–which IS judgementalism–is that he was a Jew who saw a universal truth: unconditional love marks the “true follower of the Way”.

    always has. before there was a Bible or a Jesus story for us to talk about.

    good words “Love One Another” now, practicing loving others and self unconditionally is the task at hand. unconditional love breeds wisdom and wisdom breeds course-correction.

    “Sin” and “Sinner” are mistranslations and thus misunderstandings of ancient words that are much more profound. define those and you will become, if you are a good person, a helper of those who are floudnering or lost and in need of help.

    you can’t help anybody who is smug or locked down by their own choice and who insist on staying bound to their beliefs and ways. Jesus wrote such off, according to another NT story i think about a lot.

    keep learnin’! it IS all about loving one another unconditionally–old guy

    1. WOW! I am an avid reader of the gospels, and I agree with both you and Beth’s blog post – but I cannot believe that I either didn’t know or didn’t remember that Jesus never used the word sin!!!

      Interesting fact to point out to people who use the word with all their might and energy.

      1. He did use the word “sin” on several occasions, such as John chapter 8 (let he who is without sin cast the first stone).

        What He never did was call anyone a sinner, even though they were. He always used terms like “neighbor”, “brother”, and so forth. And that’s what He expects the rest of us in the Christian faith to do.

        1. Thanks for the further clarification. I looked at all the gospel translations and I was a bit confused. I re read the original post where it said that there was a mistranslated.

          But your comment about naming the word, the noun a sin, is far different than attaching that huge word, or idea directly to a person and identifying him as only that – the sin we chose to which dehumanizes them, and precludes me from being a witness to christ and of christ in that relationship.

        2. Rob, do your homework. Don’t propagate what is not true. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but SINNERS to repentance” (Lu 5:32).

          It really upsets me that people like you, Rob, and also Cindy, Karen and Heather distort the gospel into a one-sided, immature set of opinions.

          Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, I will judge myself 1st so I can see clearly to remove that which is false from another.

          Yes, I will not judge according to appearance, as Jesus said, when He also said to “JUDGE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT.”

          Christians, it’s time to cease being afraid of our own shadows. Paul told us to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; CORRECT, REBUKE and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2Ti 4:2). Certainly we must be careful and self-examine, but let us not take the meat out of the gospel.

          We love our brothers by encouraging them to do well and reproving them when they fall away.

          1. “…let us not take the meat out of the gospel.” Paul would NEVER call his directive “…CORRECT, REBUKE” the MEAT of the Gospel!! The MEAT of the gospel and in fact the fulfillment of the whole law of God is to “LOVE ONE ANOTHER as I have loved you.” LOVE is repeatedly spoken of in this way. LOVE is Christ’s directive to the church and judgement is reserved for GOD.

    2. Mark 2:17, Christ refers to those separate from Him as “sinners.”
      Romans 5:8, Paul refers to us as sinners (he wasn’t contradicting God in using this term).

      But let’s say the words “Sin” and “Sinner” never appear in the Scriptures–not even once…would it mean the concept of sin and our being sinners isn’t now true? The word “trinity” isn’t found in the Scriptures, but we recognize the necessary doctrine and belief in the Holy Trinity regardless.

      We recognize evil because we recognize love. We recognize Satan’s existence because we understand God’s existence and Christ’s message of salvation. Recognizing sin isn’t a dismissal of love. I’d argue that not recognizing sin easily allows people to not even understand what love really is.

  25. Spot on and very brave, Beth!

    The way to go!!!

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